BISMARCK — A renewed effort to repeal North Dakota's ban on Sunday morning shopping cleared its first major hurdle Thursday, Jan. 17, as House lawmakers agreed to ditch what some called an outdated and unfair law.
Legislators passed House Bill 1097 Thursday afternoon in a 56-35 vote, a wider margin of success than the proposal saw in the same chamber two years ago. The legislation now moves to the Senate, where a repeal bill failed by two votes in 2017.
Rep. Shannon Roers Jones, R-Fargo, the bill's primary sponsor, welcomed Thursday's vote but said she and other supporters "have work to do" to ensure the ban bites the dust. Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, predicted Thursday the repeal would pass the Legislature.
Republican Gov. Doug Burgum supports repealing the Sunday closing law, a spokesman previously said.
Repeal supporters said the bill was a matter of economic freedom and argued retail employees are already working inside the stores ahead of noon on Sunday.
"Our law ... does not prevent people from working, it just stops us from shopping," said Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot. "It's time probably that we just change the law and then allow businesses to decide when it's best for them to be open and closed."
North Dakota has gradually chipped away at Sunday commerce restrictions over the years, and retailers were allowed to open their doors after noon in the early 1990s. But restaurants, hotels, movie theaters and other establishments are exempt from the law that makes it a Class B misdemeanor to operate a business before noon on Sunday.
Several opponents leaned heavily on religious arguments Thursday. Rep. Sebastian Ertelt, R-Lisbon, said laws passed by the state Legislature are not above "God's law," which he said policymakers already recognize by prohibiting "wholesale murder."
Rep. Kathy Skroch, R-Lidgerwood, argued people need time for rest and relaxation and blamed the Legislature for "undermining" Sunday restrictions.
"For the good of our families and our state, we must not strip the last remnants of the North Dakota Sunday closing laws," she said.
Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, said in a statement that the bill's passage "reflects the growing tendency in our culture to put convenience and profit over families and workers" and called on the Senate to reject the bill.
Whether the Senate will again halt the repeal drive remains to be seen, but Roers Jones said she has heard of "a couple" senators who previously opposed the bill but now favor doing away with the ban.
Citing arguments that the state's largest city is losing business across the Red River to neighboring Minnesota, Fargo Republican Rep. Jim Kasper flipped his vote in favor of the repeal Thursday after opposing it two years ago.
"I voted what I think is the best interest of my district and the city of Fargo," he said.
How the House voted
A "yes" vote was in favor of repealing North Dakota's ban on Sunday morning shopping.
YES: Mary Adams (D-Grand Forks); Pamela Anderson (D-Fargo); Thomas Beadle (R-Fargo); Rick Becker (R-Bismarck); Jake Blum (R-Grand Forks); Tracy Boe (D-Mylo); Glenn Bosch (R-Bismarck); Josh Boschee (D-Fargo); Mike Brandenburg (R-Edgeley); Gretchen Dobervich (D-Fargo); Jason Dockter (R-Bismarck); Matt Eidson (D-Grand Forks); Clayton Fegley (R-Berthold); Jim Grueneich (R-Jamestown); Ron Guggisberg (D-Fargo); LaurieBeth Hager (D-Fargo); Karla Rose Hanson (D-Fargo); Patrick Hatlestad (R-Williston); Craig Headland (R-Montpelier); Pat Heinert (R-Bismarck); Richard Holman (D-Mayville); Michael Howe (R-West Fargo); Craig Johnson (R-Maxbass); Dennis Johnson (R-Devils Lake); Mary Johnson (R-Fargo); Tom Kading (R-Fargo); Jim Kasper (R-Fargo); George Keiser (R-Bismarck); Keith Kempenich (R-Bowman); Ben Koppelman (R-West Fargo); Donald Longmuir (R-Stanley); Scott Louser (R-Minot); Andrew Marschall (R-Fargo); Bob Martinson (R-Bismarck); Aaron McWilliams (R-Hillsboro); Alisa Mitskog (D-Wahpeton); Corey Mock (D-Grand Forks); Mike Nathe (R-Bismarck); Jon Nelson (R-Rugby); Emily O’Brien (R-Grand Forks); Todd Porter (R-Mandan); Brandy Pyle (R-Casselton); David Richter (R-Williston); Shannon Roers Jones (R-Fargo); Dan Ruby (R-Minot); Matthew Ruby (R-Minot); Mark Sanford (R-Grand Forks); Austen Schauer (R-West Fargo); Jim Schmidt (R-Huff); Mary Schneider (D-Fargo); Cynthia Schreiber-Beck (R-Wahpeton); Luke Simons (R-Dickinson); Michelle Strinden (R-Fargo); Nathan Toman (R-Mandan); Greg Westlind (R-Cando); Denton Zubke (R-Watford City)
NO: Bert Anderson (R-Crosby); Larry Bellew (R-Minot); Chuck Damschen (R-Hampden); Jeff Delzer (R-Underwood); Bill Devlin (R-Finley); Sebastian Ertelt (R-Lisbon); Jay Fisher (R-Minot); Jeff Hoverson (R-Minot); Daniel Johnston (R-Kathryn); Terry Jones (R-New Town); Karen Karls (R-Bismarck); Dwight Kiefert (R-Valley City); Kim Koppelman (R-West Fargo); Gary Kreidt (R-New Salem); Vernon Laning (R-Bismarck); Mike Lefor (R-Dickinson); Jeffrey Magrum (R-Hazelton); Lisa Meier (R-Bismarck); David Monson (R-Osnabrock); Marvin Nelson (D-Rolla); Mark Owens (R-Grand Forks); Bob Paulson (R-Minot); Gary Paur (R-Gilby); Chet Pollert (R-Carrington); Karen Rohr (R-Mandan); Bernie Satrom (R-Jamestown); Mike Schatz (R-New England); Randy Schobinger (R-Minot); Kathy Skroch (R-Lidgerwood); Vicky Steiner (R-Dickinson); Wayne Trottier (R-Northwood); Bill Tveit (R-Hazen); Steve Vetter (R-Grand Forks); Don Vigesaa (R-Cooperstown); Lawrence Klemin (R-Bismarck)
NOT VOTING: Dick Anderson (R-Willow City); Ruth Buffalo (D-Fargo); Robin Weisz (R-Hurdsfield)