This summer, North Dakotan’s businesses will get to do something that most businesses across the country take for granted on Sundays: open before noon.
The North Dakota Legislature deserves a lot of credit for removing this clear barrier of opportunity for our state’s business owners – the backbone of our local economy.
By signing House Bill 1097 into law, Gov. Doug Burgum’s signature means that North Dakota business owners can take control of the decision-making process necessary to compete in today’s market. This law would remove the “blue” law prohibiting certain activities from taking place, including opening certain retail stores before noon on Sundays.
- Burgum signs repeal of North Dakota's Sunday morning shopping ban
- HOW THEY VOTED: North Dakota Senate narrowly votes to repeal Sunday morning shopping ban, sending bill to Burgum
Enacted as a way to encourage rest and family time, over the years, blue laws have become barriers for economic opportunity for our state’s small business owners. To be clear, I am not discouraging anyone from resting on Sundays. As a father and a husband, I can fully appreciate the intent of the laws when they were first enacted. But today’s world is different than the one in which these laws were put on the books. And besides, the decision to remain closed before noon on Sundays is still an option.
One big change is that most of us can also shop anytime we want from our computers or smartphones. This is a convenience for us, but a disadvantage for certain brick-and-mortar retail businesses that must comply with regulations mandating when they are able to open to the public.
The policy affects most North Dakota retail businesses, but particularly those operating close to the Minnesota border in Grand Forks and Fargo, who lose out on business to nearby Minnesota retail businesses who don’t have the same restrictions.
They include folks like Ashlen Morken, a small business owner in Fargo who says the change will mean that she will be able to service tourists from Canada and local residents who wish there were more downtown shopping options available on Sundays.
Of course, some local business owners may choose to continue to remain closed, or partially closed on Sundays, once the new law goes into effect. And that’s perfectly fine. The new law is about extending increased options for small business owners. The government will no longer needlessly intervene in private business decision-making.
Besides helping small business owners, repealing blue laws is also beneficial for customers. As many of us have experienced firsthand, blue laws mean that one cannot shop in stores that sell certain items like clothing and hardware, but can shop elsewhere if they sell exempt items that can be sold at all times on Sundays.
As state Sen. Judy Lee, R-West Fargo, pointed out during bill negotiations, the recently repealed blue laws exempt transactions on certain items, such as video rentals, but prohibit the purchase of golf balls in many places on Sunday mornings. So, you can watch a movie on Sunday, but if you play golf, make sure you don’t hit too many balls into the water.
It’s enough to give anyone whiplash.
Fortunately, this confusion will soon become but a footnote in history once the new law goes into effect August 4. The change will represent a positive step toward making our state even more competitive, and more attractive for anyone thinking of opening up a business and for current business owners.
We all know that North Dakota is a great place to live and raise a family. Now North Dakota will soon become an even better place to shop and run a business. And that’s all the more reason to celebrate.
Fedorchak is North Dakota state director at Americans for Prosperity.