Saturday, March 18, 2017

Our View: Support Sunday closing referendum

Williston Herald Editorial board
Mar 17, 2017

With the failure earlier this week of a bill that would have repealed most of the state’s Sunday closing laws, it’s time for the public to take the matter into its own hands and support a petition to put the closing laws up to a vote.

We are pleased that Brandon Medenwald, a Fargo businessman, plans to do exactly that, and urge everyone to support the petition his group, North Dakota Open on Sundays, plans to have circulating this spring.

If the proposed petition gets 13,452 signatures, a measure to repeal those laws would be on the ballot for the 2018 general election.

House Bill 1163 had a wild ride this session, failing in the House in a close vote on Jan. 30, then being reconsidered and passing in another close vote the next day. There was hope that the Senate would also move to reconsider the bill after it failed 22-25 on Tuesday, but that sadly didn’t happen.

That leaves it up to the people of the state.

North Dakota’s Sunday closing laws are among the strictest in the country, and they prevent most businesses from opening before noon on Sundays. If it were consistent, we would still dislike it, but at least it would be defensible.

As it stands, though, there are dozens of exemptions, giving some businesses the chance to be open while others must remain closed.

As supporters of HB 1163 noted, those inconsistencies are maddening and, in some cases, arbitrary.

Repealing the closings serves the interests of fairness, and keeps the government from prioritizing some businesses above others.

Eliminating the laws would also have another noble effect — reducing government paternalism.

While the supporters of the bill have argued that keeping businesses closed allows time for families to rest, recharge and spend time together, they haven’t answered one question: Why is Sunday the time that should be set aside for that?

It also assumes numerous things about the way North Dakotans live, not all of which are true.

What about families who have one member who already works at one of the businesses that are allowed to open be Sunday? What about single people? What about families who find time other than Sunday morning to spend time together?

Allowing businesses to open on Sunday morning does not automatically mean that every business would be open that day, nor that every worker would have to work that day. In fact, the bill included a provision that prevented any business from being forced to open on Sundays as part of a lease provision.

What repealing the Sunday closure law would do is allow business owners and residents to decide for themselves how they want to spend their Sunday mornings, without being told what’s best for them by legislatures.

That is an outcome worth supporting, either by pressing your senator to reconsider the bill or by signing a petition to put the Sunday closing repeal on the ballot for 2018.


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