February 20, 2017 10:44 PM
The Minnesota House has approved for the first time a bill legalizing Sunday liquor sales.
The vote was 85-45, representing a significant reversal of the count two years ago, when lawmakers opposed the measure 101-26.
"I do think the consumers of Minnesota have spoken," Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, said just before the House vote. Loon authored the Sunday liquor sales bill. "We are losing business across our borders every Sunday as Minnesotans leave our state lines to purchase something maybe they forgot or ran out of or just didn't have time to do during the week."
Democrats like Rep. Tina Liebling of Rochester supported the bill because she doesn't think the government should tell businesses what days of the week they can be open.
However, there was also bipartisan opposition from lawmakers who fear what it could do to small, family-owned liquor stores.
"They do not stand to gain any more profits by being open on Sunday, but their overhead will just increase," said Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-Stillwater.
Others fear it would even put many of them out of business because they won't be able to compete with "big box" liquor retailers.
"I feel a duty to protect Minnesota businesses and small businesses," Rep. John Considine, DFL-Mankato, said during the House floor debate. "If we do not start protecting them they are going to disappear."
Sunday sales is a perennial issue at the Capitol that consumes plenty of attention, but has never moved forward.
The vote is expected to be closer Wednesday where it's likely to go before a state Senate committee.
North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa have some form of Sunday liquor sales legalized in their respective states.
Sixty-eight votes were needed to move the bill forward in the House.
The bill could face a challenge in the Senate, where more lawmakers still support the ban.
Gov. Mark Dayton has said in the past that he would sign a Sunday liquor sales bill if it reaches his desk.
The issue has been brought up in the Minnesota House at least three out of the past four years. The House previously struck down bills related to the issue by the following margins:
A KSTP/SurveyUSA poll from April 2014 found that public opinion generally approves of legislation to legalize Sunday liquor sales. According to the survey, 62 percent of Minnesotans approved of such sales, 34 percent were opposed and 5 percent were undecided.
Minnesota is one of 12 states with a Sunday liquor sales ban.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Updated: February 20, 2017 10:44 PM
Created: February 20, 2017 04:27 PM
Copyright 2017 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company