Yesterday the state Senate, amid a lot of talk about religion, shot down a bill repealing the state’s blue laws.
Today the Senate could have reconsidered the vote – anyone on the prevailing side, or who was absent for the vote, can call for a reconsideration on the next legislative date – but it didn’t happen. Now unless the blue laws repeal gets amended into some other bill, which seems unlikely, the issue is over for this session.
But Brandon Medenwald, a Fargo-based businessman, told me on the radio today that he’s going to put the issue on the ballot for an initiated measure.
Here’s the audio:
“What’s next is the thing we didn’t want to do,” Medenwald told me. “Now that 1163 is dead we’ll take it to the ballot.”
He said he expects a lot of support for the initiated measure from people who testified in favor of HB1163 in Bismarck, including the state’s Chambers of Commerce as well as malls located in Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck, and Minot.
“I don’t believe this is a religious issue,” Medenwald told me, despite some lawmakers opposing the issue on religious grounds. He said the religious argument is likely a “non-sell” with voters.
But I wouldn’t be so sure that an initiated measure like this could pass, even though I support the policy change. Opposition to Sunday openings isn’t just from the religious ground. There has been a growing movement on behalf of workers, pushed often by left wing interests such as labor unions, against the “Black Friday” shopping phenomena. I could see that same sort of sentiment manifest on behalf of workers who don’t want to go in on Sunday mornings either.
Really, we should recognize that businesses which want to operate on holidays or Sundays are just responding to public interest. They wouldn’t open if there weren’t an economic benefit. But those decisions should be made by businesses, not the government.
Medenwald has been operating the North Dakota Open Sundays Facebook page. He said those who want to follow the initiated measure process should check in there.