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Misguided Bill Would Give State Workers Option to Take 9/11 Off

AP01091204878

COLORADO -- We don't know the best way to pay tribute to the incalculable acts of heroism resulting from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But creating an "optional" state holiday on Sept. 11 would not head the list.

And yet that's one measure state lawmakers are now considering. House Bill 1045, by Rep. Edward Casso, D-Thornton, would set aside Sept. 11 as Patriot Day, in remembrance of the innocent victims of the al-Qaida attacks - and the selfless sacrifice of the first responders and volunteers in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

State agencies would remain open on Patriot Day. But workers could take the day off with pay after getting permission to work on another holiday.

If HB 1045 becomes law, Colorado would be the first U.S. state to declare a 9/11 holiday. Even in New York, which by far suffered the most casualties from the attacks, Sept. 11 is simply a "day of remembrance," with state offices open for business as usual.

Still, creating a 9/11 holiday in Colorado has been a priority for Casso since he entered office in 2007. He told the Rocky's Lynn Bartels, "To me, if it's not the most important day in American history, it's the second or third most important."

We have no desire to minimize the horrific losses suffered that day. But a refresher course in U.S. history may be in order, considering other crucial events from our past that have not been commemorated with holidays.

Think Sept. 3 (the signing of the Treaty of Paris, ending the American Revolution); Nov. 19 (Lincoln's Gettysburg Address); April 9 (the surrender of Confederate forces at Appomattox, Va.); Dec. 7 (the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor); May 8 (the surrender of Nazi forces in Europe); Aug. 14 (Japan's World War II surrender).

Why should a day so fresh in our memories take precedence over other essential anniversaries, many of them passing each year with scarcely a mention?

There's no fiscal note attached to the bill because it wouldn't give state employees additional paid time off. Workers could only take the 9/11 holiday if they worked another holiday instead; in 2001, the legislature set up a similar arrangement for March 31, Cesar Chavez's birthday.

But Casso originally wanted to make 9/11 a full holiday, giving workers an extra day off with pay. He retreated once he learned it might cost taxpayers $3 million - a tough sell given the state's fiscal mess. Unfortunately, he's said he will push to make 9/11 a paid holiday when the economy recovers.

As part of his proposals to save more than $1 billion over the next 18 months, Gov. Bill Ritter wants many state workers to take several days without pay.

Ritter recommended five furlough days during the fiscal year beginning July 1. The governor also suggested he may ask for an additional three-day furlough between now and June 30.

While the state is scrambling to maintain public services during a fiscal collapse, it's simply not the time to lay the groundwork for a costly new perk for government employees.

Discuss It!

How do you feel about this bill? Is it the right way to honor 9/11 heroes?Click here to join the JEMS Connect discussion.

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