In late January, on a 56-35 vote, the North Dakota House approved a measure to end the state’s Sunday-closing laws, called "blue laws.”
"It's not the state of North Dakota's responsibility to decide for me or anyone else how we spend our free time, when we open our business," said Rep. Shannon Roers Jones (R-Fargo), the bill's main sponsor. "In that light, I hope you vote 'green' to repeal these laws."
North Dakota may have the strictest remaining blue law of the United States. Many goods and items are restricted from being sold between midnight and noon on Sunday, rendering virtually all retailers closed in those hours, including malls and some large retail chains, such as Walmart. Grocery stores, however, are allowed to be open on Sunday..
A number of legislators spoke against the bill, citing Sunday being a holy day and a day of rest.
"I think that half-day should be set aside to recognize that we all do have a Creator," said Rep. Vernon Laning (R-Bismarck). "He's the ultimate law-giver, and the ultimate law-controller."
"We need time for 'r-and-r,'" said Rep. Kathy Skroch (R-Lidgerwood). "For rest, recovery, regeneration, relaxation, restoration, recreation, relationships and reflection."
Some of the measure’s opponents worry businesses will force employees to work Sunday morning. Rep. Dan Ruby (R-Minot), who supported the bill, addressed that in his floor speech.
"I don't like to require people to work," Ruby said. "But I also don't like to require businesses to be told by the government when they can and can't be open."
The measure passed 56-35. It will now be considered in the state Senate.
March 19, 2019. The North Dakota Senate voted 25-21 on bill 1097 to repeal the state's Sunday closing law.
Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, said the state's blue law is outmoded from its roots in 16th century English common law, given the changing times and myriad items available for sale and exempt from the blue law.
"In its time, Sunday blue laws probably made a lot of sense, and I believe mirrored public opinion, but its time has passed," Holmberg said near the end of 28 minutes of floor debate.
The bill now goes to Gov. Doug Burgum, who has voiced support for the repeal of the law that essentially prohibits retail shopping in North Dakota from midnight to noon Sunday. If signed by Burgum, the bill would take effect Aug. 1.