The Accidental HOLIDAY

In 1869, American Poet John Godfrey Saxe wrote in the Daily Cleveland Herald that, “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as how we know they are made.” This oft-repeated quote came to mind recently in California.

For years, the Governor had proclaimed the fourth Friday in September as “Native American Day.” Finally, the Legislature decided to make the day a state holiday, and so Government Code, § 6700, which lists the state holidays, was amended to include Native American Day.

As we know, however, there are holidays, and then there are HOLIDAYS. An example of the former includes Admission Day—September 9th—which is the day we mark the admission of California into the union of the United States. Despite its status as a state holiday, few are aware of it beyond a notation on a wall calendar and most would be hard pressed to think of when it is. The latter, on the other hand, includes days like Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. These are days when state offices are closed, stores have sales, and people often get the day off work with pay.

Since California has almost 450,000 government employees and a monthly payroll of nearly $1.75 Billion—not to mention those working for counties, cities, and local school districts—those paid days off cost the state money, lots of money, and therefore, when the Legislature enacts a law recognizing a new holiday, it has to be careful to take into account the fiscal impact and decide whether to shutter state offices on that day. In the case of Native American Day, however, the Salons neglected to mention in the law that they intended the Courts to be open that day. With court budgets already straining in the state, the thought of another paid holiday had court administrators concerned, to say the least. And so it was that the Legislature, not wanting to draw attention to its error, added a brief section to the budget bill changing Native American Day from a HOLIDAY to a holiday and saving the state a lot of sausages in the process.