BISMARCK — Gov. Doug Burgum signed legislation repealing North Dakota's ban on Sunday morning shopping Monday, March 25, his office said.
The Republican governor's signature was expected. Burgum, a former software executive, had already signaled his support for the repeal bill.
The repeal becomes effective Aug. 1, meaning the first Sunday with legal morning sales will Aug. 4.
In a statement, Burgum said the legislation would help North Dakota businesses compete with online retailers and stores in neighboring states.
“This legislation supports freedom, fairness and local control,” he said. “We trust retailers to decide when it’s best to open or not open their businesses, and we trust families and consumers to determine how best to spend their time.”
The Senate narrowly passed the bill last week after it moved through the House in January. A similar repeal effort failed two years ago.
Current law makes it a Class B misdemeanor to operate a business before noon on Sunday, with a long list of exceptions for restaurants, hotels, movie theaters and other establishments. Violators of the Sunday closing law face, at most, 30 days in prison and a $1,500 fine.
The bill, championed by Fargo Republican Rep. Shannon Roers Jones, marks a major rollback of Sunday restrictions that can be traced to the days before North Dakota was a state. The repeal divided lawmakers who leaned on religious arguments and those who saw the ban as an intrusion on free enterprise.
Lawmakers made North Dakota the last state to permit Sunday shopping in 1991 by allowing it after noon. Shoppers have been known to wait outside store doors on Sunday mornings before legally perusing retailers' wares.
It wasn't immediately clear how many businesses would change their hours later this year. Several national chains did not respond to requests for comment from Forum News Service, and a Scheel's spokeswoman declined to comment.
Brad Schlossman, CEO of West Acres Development, the owner and operator of the West Acres Shopping Center in Fargo, said he planned to have discussions with stores in the mall but didn't expect them to open their doors before 11 a.m. on Sundays.
"Time will tell," Schlossman said.
A Best Buy spokesman, however, said the electronics retailer would open at 10 a.m. on Sundays starting in August now that they've been given the option to do so.