The Minnesota Legislature appears to be moving toward a repeal of the state’s long-standing ban on Sunday liquor sales.
Representative Jennifer Loon (R – Eden Prairie) introduced the bill, House File 30, which changes the liquor store “open” ban from all of Sunday; the bill will allow for licensed liquor stores to sell alcohol on Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. On January 19, the Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee unanimously passed the bill. Thus, it now moves to the State House floor for a potential full vote.
The ban of alcohol sales on Sundays has existed since the repeal of prohibition to continue controlling the state’s sale of alcohol. Minnesota is one of twelve states with an existing ban on Sunday alcohol sales. The approximately 80-year-old statue has been under fire for the past several years, with annual attempts to repeal it. Two years ago, a similar bill died in committee and had to be added as an amendment to another bill. The amendment attempt failed with a vote of 53-75, but proponents of the repeal were still hopeful. Representative Drew Christensen (R – Prior Lake) pointed to the fact that out of the newer members of the house (Serving terms one, two, and three), the majority voted for the amendment, likely pointing to the shift in the legislature towards repeal. Representative Christensen also showed that the older members (those having served for four or more terms) voted in majority against the amendment.
Repeal also failed during last year’s session, in a similar vote of 56-70. Support and opposition crosses party lines; both Speaker Kurt Daudt (R – Anoka) and Governor Mark Dayton (D) say that they will support the legislation to different degrees. Speaker Daudt is a full supporter, a co-author of the amendment, who has voted for the measure in the past. Speaker Daudt also appears to be actively pushing for it.
In a comment to CBS Minnesota, Speaker Daudt said, “It’s frankly something I think that is long overdue, so I have put the weight of my office behind it.”
Governor Dayton, on the other hand, says that he does not think repealing the ban is important, yet he will sign the amendment if it makes it to his desk.
Proponents of the repeal argue that if the purpose of the ban is to truly prevent people from being able to buy alcohol, it is inefficient, as every surrounding state and Canadian provinces offer Sunday liquor sales. Many Minnesotans have made the trip to Hudson, Wisconsin to obtain their alcohol on Sundays.
The proponents extend the argument to point to the potential loss of sales taxes to those surrounding states. The MN First Consumers Alliance’s estimates have placed this value at 10 million dollars, but that kind of figure is hard to estimate with any level of accuracy. Proponents also point to the freedom issue, saying that the state should not force liquor stores who want to be open to close.
On the other side, opponents tend to argue that while the bill does not require stores to be open on Sundays, the pressure from the consumers will require them to be. That pressure supposedly could harm smaller, locally-owned stores from competition against large chain stores. In 2008 the state of Colorado legalized Sunday sales and found that no stores closed after the repeal, per the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association. However, economist Michael Hicks found that some smaller stores closed due to pressure in Indiana, claiming three-to-five closed per county.
In the past, opponents have also raised the concern from local teamster unions about needing to deliver alcohol on Sundays, but the new version of the bill includes a provision banning deliveries on Sundays to address this concern.
Whether the 2017 session is the final year of Minnesota’s Sunday sales ban, or yet another disappointing vote for the proponents of repeal, is uncertain. While proponents are hopeful, they were also confident in past years, where they came up short. The bill has until the end of the legislative session on May 23 to be passed by both the State’s House and Senate before consideration by the Governor.