Minnesota Senate Votes To Repeal Ban On Sunday, Liquor Sales—38-28 In Favor

[Minnesota votes on the current, liquor ban. | All photos: Glen Stubbe]
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Upon a recent vote for Minnesota to overturn the no-selling-booze-on-Sundays law, the state’s Senate saw a number of folks pleased about the end of a 159-year-old state mandate.

[The Minnesota State Senate | All Photos: Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune]
“We’ve been hearing loud and clear from our constituents that it’s time to get this done,” Senator Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) said. “Today, we have an opportunity to show Minnesota we’re with the people.” (Miller’s the measure’s chief author.)

Before folks can pop open their champagne bottles, there are still some differences to be settled between the Senate and a companion bill the House passed in the week of February 20th. However, the Senate was the up-hill segment, and Governor Mark Dayton’s vow to allow the repeal turn law will precipitate Minnesota liquor stores posting Sunday hours as early as July.

This ban has simultaneously been in existence since the 1858 inception of MN—they sustained it even upon 1933’s termination of Prohibition. Like Minnesota’s ban on automobile sales during the day of rest, the liquor ban’s one of the state’s lingering blue laws forbidding specific activities on Sundays. But these rules are changing with the times and cultural norms.

The ban’s proponents feel the probable repeal a strike against small businesses and small-town life.

“Monday’s vote may seem like the popular decision to some, but its impact on small, family owned liquor stores will be negative,” Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association Executive Director Tony Chesak said in a statement. “As the Legislature considers other proposals, we ask legislators to keep a level, playing field so smaller stores can fairly compete against big-box retailers.”

[Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville) congratulates Chief Author/Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) on the overturned ban’s success thus far.]
The aforementioned differences are minor—the Senate pushing store hours of 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. while the House would allow a 10 a.m. opening. Both sides worked together to form a conference committee to resolve the issue(s)—lest the House gives the green on the Senate version, which will then be escalated to Dayton.

House Bill Chief Author & Representative Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie) said her team will soon come to a finite decision on their direction.

Previous attempts to quash the ban have failed egregiously, but public-opinion polls availed most desired this possible transition. More, in addition to a plethora of anti-ban legislators taking office, craft brewers, distillers and the like encouraged activists to take guerrilla efforts while big-booze entities backed them up with lobbying muscle.

In 2014 and 2015, Big-boozer Total Wine & More put $170,000 into lobbying the Legislature—the latest figures from Minnesota’s Campaign Finance & Public Disclosure Board. Pro-banners and tavern-and-liquor-store-representative Licensed Beverage Association dropped $60,000 and another $105,000 on the Legislature in 2013.

According to the Senate vote, the divide was geographic (not partisan). Nineteen Republicans and 19 Democratic-Farmer-Labor partiers (DFLers) voted against the ban. Twin City senators are predicted to be proponents of the repeal. But rural-district senators (both Republican and Democrat) are would-be opponents of it.

[The bill passes 38-28]
It was a 90-minute debate entailing heated arguments stemming from both sides.

“What is this going to do to my little hometown?” Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) asked. He referenced his wonder years—the café, barbershop and hardware stores (all by name)—defending policies protecting mom-and-pop shops. “They were all there when I was a kid,” Bakk added. “In their place on our little Main Street are a whole lot of empty lots.”

Anti-banners pushed for Minnesota law to reflect that of contemporary Minnesotans who use Sundays to run errands—like church.

“It is time,” Senator Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury) said. “We’d rather be talking about issues of greater significance. Let us pass this and move to those important issues.”

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