Our view: Old-fashioned Sunday law must change
Trying to complete a home project on the weekend? Better plan ahead, because the stores that sell lawn-care products, paint and plywood don't open until noon on Sundays. Anyone who has seen the lines of shoppers forming on Sunday mornings in fron...
Trying to complete a home project on the weekend? Better plan ahead, because the stores that sell lawn-care products, paint and plywood don't open until noon on Sundays. Anyone who has seen the lines of shoppers forming on Sunday mornings in front of Menards or Lowe's is acutely aware of North Dakota's draconian blue laws, which ban retail sales on Sunday mornings.
It's the same for all sorts of other retail necessities.
Perhaps 2019 is the year these outdated and unfair laws are finally wiped from North Dakota's books. Legislation coming from both Democrats and Republicans is expected to be introduced during this year's session of the Legislature, potentially ending what some consider the strictest blue laws in the nation.
Ending the Sunday morning shopping ban has been discussed in the past, including the possibility in recent years of putting the issue before North Dakota voters. That didn't happen, so now it's in the hands of the Legislature, which has fumbled this one in years past.
It used to be that all businesses in North Dakota were banned from opening on Sundays, but that changed in the 1980s and early 1990s. First, grocery stores were allowed to open on Sundays, and a few years later, the Legislature allowed other retailers to begin sales at noon.
The reasons to repeal the restriction are many. First, it's not entirely fair, since certain businesses are allowed to be open Sunday mornings. And these days, many people already work on Sundays, which is a great change from a century ago.
Online retailing - not even remotely conceived when these laws were put on the books - allows shopping around the clock, seven days a week. North Dakota retailers shouldn't be put at yet another disadvantage, and retailers in Grand Forks - a city that has seen numerous retail closures in the past 18 months - could use this boost.
Finally, any societal law put on the books a century ago should face scrutiny from time to time. Do blue laws truly encourage more attendance at church, more rest and more relaxing times with families? And is it the government's business to encourage those activities by hurting merchants?
A report last month by The Associated Press noted that, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, North Dakota is the only state that still prohibits shopping on Sunday mornings. Yet our state has many large border towns that are forced to compete with more relaxed laws just across a state line.
Also, the AP report notes that the state Supreme Court has ruled that North Dakota's Sunday morning shopping ban is not to aid religion but rather to set aside time for "rest and relaxation." Yet the lines that form in front of stores a few minutes before noon on Sundays indicate that North Dakotans aren't as interested in relaxing as shoppers of a century ago.
Times change, and blue laws aren't needed anymore. Just ask the people forming those lines in front of retail stores on Sunday mornings.
It's OK for government to determine how fast we can drive or the taxes we pay. Government should not, however, require that we rest or relax on a Sunday morning.