The Return of the Blue Law

The Missourinet’s long history of covering the legislature leaves us knowing that every year, some lawmaker will introduce a bill that gets far more publicity than it deserves because it moves the needle on the “weird” scale. A press release arriving in our office Monday afternoon announced the first needle movement we have seen for the 2013 session.

Representative Jeff Roorda is riding to the rescue of Turkey Day. He proposes to smite the money-grubbers who are encroaching on valuable family time by starting Black Friday on Thursday with a state law that prohibits retail stores from opening that day. A Blue Law for a Thursday.

“Thanksgiving should be about families, not profit and greed,” he proclaims. “It’s Thanksgiving Day, not Black Friday eve.”

However, his proposal decrees that some people will not be able to spend their Thanksgiving Day with their families after all because there are some places where greed and profit would remain legal: restaurants, drug stores, and gas stations.

Missourians could have pizza at Target and a McDonald’s cheesburger at Wal-Mart because those areas would be considered restaurants and they could buy deodorant, hair spray, and Dr. Scholl’s foot pads in the pharmacy sections in those stores. And if you run out of milk or need a new can of fake whipped cream for your home made pumpkin pie — well, you better hope the convenience store has it because grocery stores, including the food sections at Target and Wal-Mart — according to the press release Roorda has rushed to put out — aren’t restaurants or retailers whose primary business is motor fuels or pharmaceuticals.

And what about those families that look forward to shopping on Thanksgiving evening after a long day of being together and eating together and napping together and growing bored together by evening? Well, he does seem to leave them with the chance to have some riotous family time pumping gas and buying drugs on their way to a second big meal of the day at a greedy restaurant.  Somebody in the newsroom asked if that meant nobody could go to a movie on Thanksgiving night.  Our un-learned opinion is that theatres are not retail places so yes, you could go to a movie.  But the snack bar would have to be closed because it’s a retail operation that does not sell motor fuels or drugs.  Popcorn, candy, and soft drinks probably would not fit unter the restaurant exemption.

Missouri ditched Blue Laws decades ago when people decided Sunday shopping was a good thing and something even families might do together. For years, there were those that railed against the damage to family values that would be caused by greedy merchants wanting to sell things to families on Sundays. But their time eventually passed. And the Republic has survived. If the nation will survive families going to a mall on a holy day, is it unlikely to survive families lining up outside an electronics store waiting for it to open on Thanksgiving day?

The Missourinet will watch the legislature closely in 2013 and we’ll keep you informed about whether Roorda’s bill becomes a law…

Or a turkey.

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