- Written by Bob Katzen
- Category: ROOT
- Published: 05 June 2009
- Last Updated: 05 June 2009
- Created: 05 June 2009
The Statehouse and other state and local government buildings in only Boston, Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop are officially closed each year on both dates. Thousands of local and state workers in those communities are given the two days off. Thousands of other state employees in all other cities and towns across the state are allowed to take the two days off or use them as "floating holidays" - a procedure under which they can take off two days of their choice during the year.
The House was in recess for several hours before the amendment reached the House floor. Members of the Democratic leadership called the recess so that supporters of the two holidays would have time to lobby legislators to vote to keep them as days off.
Following defeat of the amendment, House Republican Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R-North Reading) released a statement. "The public is going to continue to believe that Beacon Hill just doesn't get it," he said. "This effort is about restoring the public's trust whose confidence in its elected officials has been broken."
Amendment supporters said that eliminating the two holidays would save an estimated $5 million and would be a very important pro-taxpayer, symbolic move during a time when the state is drowning in debt and thousands of citizens have lost their jobs and houses. They argued that it is unfair and a waste of tax dollars that these state and local workers have these two days off. Some called the two days "hack holidays." Others said that eliminating the two days as state holidays would still allow communities in Suffolk County to make the two days into local city or town holidays.
Amendment opponents said that Bunker Hill Day commemorates the important Battle of Bunker Hill while Evacuation Day celebrates a key victory for the colonies as General George Washington and his troops drove the British out of Boston. They argued that these two holidays commemorate important events that took place in the city of Boston and said it is simply political grandstanding to attempt to eliminate them. Some said that the success of this cynical move could be a slippery slope that leads to the eventual abolition of other important holidays.
Debate was heated and lasted for about an hour.
Rep. Paul Frost (R-Auburn) said that the state has reached troubled times and has to make some tough decisions. "We are just at a time now where you have these two holidays celebrated in one county in the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts, not celebrated across the board, across the state and people are wondering why is that," said Frost.
Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Hanson) agreed and said, "We need to make the decisions that we make here today that show the people in this commonwealth that we are serious about what their concerns are. And what I hear from the people in this commonwealth is that we shouldn't be allowing one county to have certain types of holidays when the rest of the citizens of the commonwealth are footing the bill, in most cases, for it."
Rep. Brian Wallace (D-Boston) defended the holidays and suggested that abolishing them could lead to wiping out other holidays. He told colleagues that he got out of a sick bed with a 103 temperature to come to the Statehouse. He noted, "This is very, very personal to me. This is about where I grew up. This is about my history. ... What's next? Do we say, well you know, Thanksgiving is only about some Indians and some Pilgrims? Let's do away with that. Let's rewrite history. That's not a big deal. Patriots Day. What's that about - Tom Brady? Let's do away with that. We don't need that. Christmas? That's about a fat guy who brings presents. That's not a big deal. Where do we stop?"
Rep. James Fagan (D-Taunton) echoed Wallace's sentiments and accused the Boston Globe and Boston Herald of trying to "run the state from Morrissey Boulevard or Herald Square." Both newspapers have editorialized in favor of abolishing the two holidays. Fagan said, "I hope these holidays are around and with us a long time after the Globe is gone. And sooner will be better."
A longstanding theory says that declaring March 17 as Evacuation Day has always been just an excuse to provide a day off to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Boston. Some say that Mayor Curley assigned an aide to find an historical American event that occurred on St. Patrick's Day and the aide came up with Evacuation Day.
The Senate voted 17-22 on May 21 to reject the same move to abolish the two holidays.
(A "Yes" vote is for the amendment eliminating the two holidays in Suffolk County. A "No" vote is against eliminating them and favors the two holidays).Sen. Robert Hedlund, Yes
Rep. Thomas Calter, Yes
Rep. Daniel Webster, Yes