SB 2220: Sunday Alcohol Sales
SB 2220 recently passed through the House Floor and will head to the Governor’s Office for signature. This bill specifically addresses the hours of alcohol dispensing on Sunday. Currently, alcohol cannot be sold in North Dakota until 11:00 AM. The passage of this bill adopts the hours to begin at 8:00 AM – which creates consistency throughout the week as every day in the week has available sales starting at that time. At the bill’s first hearing, Senator Burckhard, in Senate Industry, Business and Labor Committee commented that this was a good bill. GNDC was in agreement with him as it provides clarity of law, creates no additional financial burden to our state, increases possible tax incomes, and removes more government control from the hands of business.
This bill has had a rough road this session. Although it received a Do-Pass from its Senate Committee work, it was originally failed in the chamber before being recalled and passed with a narrow margin. The path after cross-over seemed a bit bumpier. House Judiciary had a lively debate on the merits of this bill’s intent and implications before receiving a Do-Not Pass recommendation. The Floor debate was equally divided and the final vote was 49-41.
SENATOR SCOTT MEYER
GNDC appreciates how SB 2220 promotes the free enterprise system. This bill is not a mandate to businesses that they must be open and that they must sell alcohol, instead, this bill prompts choices to businesses. Owners or management will decide if it was in their best interest to alter their business practices to utilize this tool. Hospitality and events were impacted severely by the pandemic and this is a small shift in policy that can have a large impact to those that rely on it for livelihood. We sat down with the bill sponsor, Senator Scott Meyer, to talk about this bill and others that he’s sponsored this session that demonstrates a pro-business mindset.
GNDC: The conversation on SB 2220, which is about shifting Sunday alcohol hours, has focused on religion – why should the conversation really be about business?
SEN. MEYER: There is the assumption in the debate that church can only happen on Sunday. Personally, I go to church on Wednesdays – some people don’t even go in person anymore, they can go online. So it’s hard that Sunday services have been a negative point on this bill’s progress. SB 2220 is about businesses decision without government interference. Whether it’s a convenience store, a golf course, a curling club, a brunch, this gives options to businesses to make the choice. I’ve been contacted by companies outside of my constituents who support this bill – resorts and tourism entities in our state who are looking for a leg-up after a really tough year. People are going to drink when they want but this is supporting our businesses and removing government from the equation.
SB 2175 was a bill that you sponsored that was a carry-over of sorts from last year – what was the reason for this additional work?
We, as a state, have worked closely with the Dept. of Defense. They initiated the bill last Session specific to occupational licensure reciprocity for military spouses. After Session was complete in 2019, they reached out to us and asked us to push further, to consider more specific to those that are relocating because of their duty or a family member’s commitment. This bill only made sense to remove potential hurdles for those that carry good standing occupational licenses, who could and want to join North Dakota’s workforce. This bill further addressed the skillsets and credentials of military members and further solidified trailing spouses’ licenses.
North Dakota is one of the most military-friendly states in the nation – we offer income tax exemption for retirees, licensure reciprocity, and other quality of life considerations. There are still issues that we are working on but we are not standing still – they are a work in progress. I am the son of a Vietnam Vet and I am proud to have a military base in my district. I am excited to see where we can continue to push to make an impact and the success that we are seeing in assisting those that have served our country.
2188 – A bill that GNDC supported, would have prohibited a political sub-division from regulating the sale of merchandise. This bill was unfortunately defeated, how do you feel about the outcome and do you plan to pick up the issue in the future?
We modeled this legislation after last session’s plastic straws and bags legislation – it was in-line and made sense. Where things got hung up was this bill was all about home-rule and political subs determine what is not permitted within the jurisdiction. I respect local control but I also think local control should acknowledge the decisions of small business – who are vital to their communities. I wish it would have passed because we need to continue to support and protect the business-making practices of business owners. I worked with Mike Rud with the ND Retail Association, we will continue to examine the language and policies.
GNDC hasn’t been shy about what our favorite bills are – do you have some that you’ve been watching close?
I appreciated the sports wagering bill and had hoped for action forward. The key to this bill was that it presented the issue to the voters to make the decision – just like the lottery was determined by the voters. As legislators, we make a lot of decisions but this is a conversation that is vital to ensure North Dakotans have a voice for the discussions. This bill would have allowed for that.