Video: North Dakota Senate Passes Anti-Black Friday Shopping Bill

Every holiday shopping season Americans have a debate about Black Friday, complete with grumping about stores opening during the holidays themselves. Today in the Senate lawmakers passed a bill aimed at curbing some holiday openings.

Currently state law prohibits any retail leases or agreements from requiring that a store be open on Sundays. SB2208, sponsored by Senator Dave Oehlke  (R-Devils Lake) expands that prohibition to include Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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This is aimed at shopping malls and the like which often stipulate in their lease agreements that stores must be open during certain specific hours, and on certain specific holidays. This is so that the mall can operate on a uniform schedule.

Which seems fine to me. Retail, of all our industries, is uniquely responsive to the desires of consumers. If there are enough people who want to shop during certain hours or on certain days, stores will generally adjust their hours to accommodate them.

Debate on the floor was pretty brief. Three Senators – Lonnie Laffen of Grand Forks, Joe Miller of Park River, and Tom Campbell of Grafton – rose to speak against the bill.

“It’s not something we need to involve ourselves in as a state,” Senator Miller said.

Oehlke stood and defended the bill, arguing that it gives shopping malls and retail stores “the option” of staying closed on Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Except, these businesses already have that option. They could stay closed if they wanted to. If they choose to open, isn’t that a reflection of public demand?

It seems to me that this ought to be settled by the private entities who negotiate these contracts. I understand that people have strong feelings about holiday shopping, but this isn’t really something we need to legislate, is it?

And why these two holidays? Granted, they’re the shopping holidays, but if we’re going to start codifying this stuff in law shouldn’t we consider other holidays as well? Or maybe we should just leave this to the private sector.

The bill passed on a 27-19 vote.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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