In a close vote of 25-21, the North Dakota Senate voted today to repeal what was left of the state’s Sunday Closing Laws— otherwise known as “Blue Laws”. Rep. Shannon Roers Jones’ (R – District 46) HB 1097 passed the House back in January by a margin of 56-35. It came out of the Senate Political Subdivisions Committee with a 5-1 Do Pass recommendation yesterday.
Its long been expected that the Senate vote would be a close one. After all, it was defeated in the 2017 Legislative Session by just three votes. Some speculation had even surfaced that Senator Jim Roers (R – District 46) — who just happens to be Rep. Shannon Roers Jones’ father — may end up being the deciding vote. In part, this was fueled by the fact that he voted against the repeal in 2017. The bill needed 24 votes to pass. And you might find it interesting that, after a bit of a delay, his was the last vote to go up on the board— as you can see in the video here. Read into that what you will, but in the end it didn’t matter. The bill passed with one more vote than it needed.
There’s no question that this issue evoked a bit of passion in both sides of the floor debate. You can see eight different speakers voice their opinions on the subject here. Comments ranged from how improper it is for government to dictate to business owners when they can open their doors to the negative effects of a repeal upon our society.
I’ve been consistent in writing about this issue… governments should only be empowered to do those things that the people they represent have the power to do themselves. And since we do not have the right to dictate to our neighbors when they can or cannot open their businesses, then the state shouldn’t be dictating it either. For that reason, I think the Legislature got it right.
I must admit though, there is a tinge of sadness that goes along with the repeal. Why? Because I know there are employers who will now open their doors and put employees in the situation of having to choose between work and worship. Call me “old fashioned” or “archaic”, but I think our society is better off when individuals and families can make church attendance a part of their lives.
Before I ever took my first job, I made the determination that working on Sunday was off limits for me. That’s been a blessing to me— and now my family. I realize it’s not possible for everyone. Nor does everyone even care to live by such a standard. I get that. And I respect it too. But my hope is that employers across North Dakota will do everything they can to accommodate those who sincerely desire worship over work.
As it stands now, HB 1097 will go to Governor Doug Burgum. It’s expected that he will sign the bill into law.
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