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Published December 27, 2013, 02:13 PM

Dayton would sign Sunday liquor bill

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said Friday he'd sign a bill allowing liquor stores to open on Sundays if lawmakers muster the votes to pass it in next year's session.

By: BRIAN BAKST, Associated Press, Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said Friday he'd sign a bill allowing liquor stores to open on Sundays if lawmakers muster the votes to pass it in next year's session.

Dayton told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview that he won't personally push for the bill's passage, but wouldn't get in its way either. Supporters of the change have said the measure dovetails with Dayton's call to make the 2014 session about clearing the statute books of outdated or redundant laws and speeding up transactions government has a role in.

Minnesota is among a dozen states with decades-old "blue laws" restricting liquor sales on Sundays. No neighboring states have similar booze sale bans.

"Commerce is well enough established as seven days and nights a week now," Dayton said. "For us to say it doesn't apply to this or doesn't apply to that really doesn't make much sense. There are an increasing number of Minnesotans for which Sunday isn't a religious holiday."

He said the same logic applies to a state law governing car dealerships, which also must remain closed on Sunday in Minnesota.

"They've both become routine enough that if businesses want to open and can do so without detriment to the community they should be able to do so," the Democratic governor said.

The Sunday liquor sales bill has struggled to gain traction in the Legislature. But supporters have been working to broaden their coalition and are encouraging like-minded citizens to flood their hometown legislators with calls, emails and social media contacts.

Democratic Sen. Roger Reinert of Duluth said Dayton's stance could help supporters build momentum for a 2014 push.

"It's silly for us to still have this Prohibition-era law on the books," Reinert said. "It's helpful for the Legislature to know that if they take it through the steps it will be received and signed."

But Rep. Erik Simonson, a Duluth Democrat who was the chief House sponsor of the bill, said an overwhelming rejection last year makes him pessimistic about the measure's chances. The House voted 106-21 against including the Sunday sales measure in a broader liquor regulation bill.

"I don't think the votes are there to pass it in the House," he said.

Minnesota bar and restaurant patrons can purchase alcohol within those establishments but cannot take it off-site.

Resistance to easing the restriction has come from social conservatives who raise moral objections and from a liquor store trade group that argues it would add to overhead costs without dramatically boosting sales. Representatives from the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association have said that if some liquor stores are allowed to open, most would feel they had to for competitive reasons.

"We are looking forward to having a fuller conversation with Governor Dayton to share with him the business and public health reasons why small family-owned businesses, the Minnesota Teamsters, Minnesota Wholesalers and cities with municipal liquor stores are opposed to Sunday sales," said Joe Bagnoli, a lobbyist for the association.

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