Sunday liquor sales passes Minnesota Senate

The Minnesota Senate voted in favor of legalizing Sunday liquor sales on a 38-28 vote Monday. Sunday sales have been banned since Minnesota’s statehood in 1858, but the 159-year prohibition is one big step closer to being repealed.

Roll call: How the Senate voted

"We've been hearing loud and clear from our constituents, it's time to get this done," said Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona), making the closing arguments before the Sunday sales vote.

Prior to the vote, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) offered the following message to the chambers: “If it fails, don't ask me to bring it up this year or next year."

What's next?

The House version of the Sunday sales bill, H.F. 30, passed on a floor vote earlier this month. The bills differ on what time stores can open on Sundays. The House version opens Sunday sales at 10 a.m., while the Senate bill sets an 11 a.m. start.

The discrepancy means if the Senate passes Sunday sales on Monday, it would have to go to a conference committee and then back to both chambers for a re-vote before reaching the governor’s desk.

Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk. Once signed by the governor, Sunday liquor sales would likely go into effect in July.

"Thank you to all of my Senate colleagues who supported legislation to repeal the Sunday sales ban today, and thank you to the thousands of Minnesotans who advocated for this change and made your voices heard," said a statement from Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie), author of the House bill. "I am excited that we are now one step closer to repealing this antiquated law on behalf of consumers and businesses. I will be reviewing the differences between the House and Senate versions of this bill, and come to a decision soon on whether to concur or negotiate our differences in a conference committee."

Highlights of Senate floor debate

During Monday's floor debate, Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville) who twice voted against Sunday sales, said he will vote in favor of the bill this year for "the freedom of a private business to operate when they need to."

Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) said there is a reason to keep the ban on Sunday liquor sales, because it "might be a day to dry out."

Sen. Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) asked his colleagues for a “no” vote, making the case that Sunday sales will give more sales to big box retailers and hurt mom and pop businesses.

"Our little cities will never be the same again,” Sen. Bakk said.

Bakk also summarized the debate and predicted the outcome of the vote by telling the chambers, "You're probably not going to take a vote this session that breaks more urban and rural than this."

Wine in metro grocery stores amendment withdrawn

Sen. Bakk offered, then quickly withdrew, an amendment that would allow all grocery stores in the 7-county Twin Cities metro to sell wine 7 days per week.

Sunday car sales amendment fails

Sen. Dan Schoen (DFL-St. Paul Park) proposed an amendment on the floor to repeal all Blue Laws, which would also allow car dealerships to stay open on Sundays. The motion went to a floor vote, and failed 34-32.

Treatment funding amendment

Sen. Jason Isaacson (DFL-Shoreview) offered an amendment for 50 percent of tax revenue from Sunday liquor sales to go toward treatment programs. The amendment was ruled not germane to the original bill.