Lead backer of ending Sunday liquor ban says repeal unlikely this year
March 19, 2014 — 11:45am
A repeal of the Minnesota law that forces liquor stores to close on Sunday is not likely to pass the Legislature this year, according to the proposal's champion in the Senate.
Sen. Roger Reinert told the Star Tribune he lacks the votes to get a full repeal through the Senate Commerce Committee. Instead, Reinert is focusing on what he called "baby steps" -- several bills that would loosen Sunday restrictions on small breweries and tap rooms around the state.
"It's a crack in the door," said Reinert, a Duluth Democrat. "We will continue to push for full repeal, and meanwhile it is a way to support this burgeoning microbrew industry in Minnesota."
Supporters of scrapping the Sunday ban have gotten more organized and active at the Capitol this year. Their goal is to topple a longstanding law still supported by many small liquor store owners, who want to be able to close the shop one day a week without worrying about losing business to competitors. The law's supporters wield heavy clout with many lawmakers, but its critics gained steam after Gov. Mark Dayton said late last year that he'd sign a repeal.
The Senate Commerce Committee will reviewing Reinert's brewery and taproom bills in a hearing Wednesday. Reinert said he believes he has the support to include all three bills in a larger liquor bill.
The Commerce Committee in the House, where support for the existing law appears stronger, has not taken or scheduled any action on bills loosening the Sunday prohibition. Reinert said he would likely have to press his case in a House-Senate conference committee on the liquor omnibus bill.
"My colleagues should expect that the many citizens who have engaged on this issue are not going anywhere," Reinert said.
Gov. Mark Dayton, speaking to a mostly Republican audience at the annual Minnesota Business Partnership dinner, repeated his familiar attack on the House GOP, blaming them for a legislative impasse on transportation.
Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota will support a Senate bill that requires food sold in the U.S. to carry labels disclosing genetically modified ingredients if it reaches the House for a vote. Peterson, a Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the House Agriculture Committee, reached that decision after studying a new Senate proposal. If passed by both chambers and signed into law, it would become the nation's first mandatory on-package labeling law for genetically modified organisms - known as GMOs. Peterson voted for a House bill that outlawed mandatory on-package designation of genetically engineered ingredients. But he said that the need for a national labeling policy in lieu of state laws like one that takes effect in Vermont July 1 was more important than deadlocking over on-package GMO labels.
DFL legislators and Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, said legislation by some GOP representatives would cut off family-planning services to 25,000 Minnesotans.