Minnesota's longtime ban on alcohol sales on Sunday could end in 2017, House Speaker Kurt Daudt predicted on Monday.
"I think it's past time," Daudt told reporters at a forum before the session. He predicted the House would vote to repeal the ban sometime during the session that begins Jan. 3.
The debate has been a perennial issue in recent years. Lawmakers who oppose the ban have failed in several attempts to scrap it in the House and Senate, but Daudt said he now believes a majority of House members will vote to end it.
"If a liquor store doesn't want to be open on Sunday, they don't have to," the Republican speaker said, anticipating a complaint of the ban's supporters that small-town liquor-store owners want to be able to close on Sundays without fearing competitive pressure.
DFL Rep. Melissa Hortman of Brooklyn Park, the incoming minority leader, said she's been opposed to Sunday sales in the past for that reason — the fear that "big-box" liquor stores will use it to edge out smaller business.
But Hortman said she's now "open minded" on the issue.
The Senate also would have to vote to lift the ban.
At the legislative forum sponsored by Forum Communications, incoming Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he continues his long-held opposition to Sunday sales.
But incoming Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, indicated his own long-standing opposition could be influenced by shifting opinions among his Senate colleagues.
"I've been 'no' on Sunday sales, but I want to see what the caucus thinks on that," Gazelka said. "Stay tuned."
Minnesota is one of 12 states in the U.S. that bans Sunday liquor sales, a prohibition that dates to 1935.
A repeal of the ban was last rejected in the House in March 2016 on a vote of 70-56.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would sign a repeal of the Sunday sales ban, should it reach his desk.