Thursday, February 02, 2017

Minnesota, North Dakota lawmakers aim to end 'blue laws' that limit business activity on Sundays

Pioneer Press photo by Scott Takushi
The North Dakota House voted this week to allow all businesses to open before noon on Sunday, and business interests think the Senate will agree. Meanwhile, legislators in adjoining Minnesota are pushing to allow Sunday liquor sales.

"North Dakota became the last state to allow Sunday shopping in 1991, and last session lawmakers permitted restaurants to start selling alcohol at 11 a.m. instead of noon," John Hagerman reports for the Grand Forks Herald. The current Sunday closing law "makes it a Class B misdemeanor to operate a business that’s open to the public before noon Sunday, although exceptions exist for restaurants, hotels, hospitals and other businesses."

The House voted 48-46 Tuesday to repeal the law, one day after rejecting a repeal, Hagerman writes. Opponents of the decision cite religious beliefs and the need for time off with families. Business owners argue that they should be able to set their own hours. "Andy Peterson, president and CEO of the Greater North Dakota Chamber, said he was 'cautiously optimistic' the Senate would support the repeal. In committee testimony last week, he called it a matter of 'economic freedom.'”

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt has promised that the House this year will pass a law ending the ban on Sunday liquor sales, Rachel Stassen-Berger reports for the Pioneer Press in St. Paul. "The Republican-controlled House started to make good on that promise Tuesday," with a committee voting 15-4 to repeal the ban.

"Blue laws" banning Sunday liquor sales still exist in 12 states—Alabama, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia, according to Indiana is the only state that bans beer, wine and liquor on Sundays.

Polls show most residents support ending the Minnesota ban, Stassen-Berger writes. Backers say allowing sales "would reflect the busy shopping day that Sunday has become." Opponents say "lifting the ban could harm municipal liquor stores, which provide funds to local communities, and small businesses, which would feel competitive pressure to operate seven days a week, like the bigger stores do or face closure."

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