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Brandon Medenwald hopes to start collecting signatures in July 2017 to place the repeal of North Dakota's Sunday closing law on the ballot for the November 2018 election. Submitted photo.

Petition to lift North Dakota's Sunday shopping restrictions could put measure on ballot

FARGO — Four months after North Dakota lawmakers failed to repeal the state's blue law, a proposed initiated measure asking voters to do so has been filed with the Secretary of State's Office.

Brandon Medenwald, a Fargo entrepreneur who chairs the petition committee, said the measure he submitted Tuesday, July 18, is nearly identical to legislation lawmakers considered that would have ended restrictions on most businesses opening before noon on Sundays.

"If you run a business or if you're just a consumer looking to run errands, we believe everyone should be allowed to choose for themselves how best they spend their time," he said.

Repeal opponents in the Legislature had said they wanted to ensure workers had a day of rest and cited religious reasons for keeping the law as is.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger said in a statement that he and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem will have five to seven business days to draft a petition title, a short statement explaining what the measure will do. After that, Medenwald's group, North Dakota Open on Sundays, would be free to gather signatures.

To get on the November 2018 ballot as Medenwald wants, organizers will need to gather at least 13,452 signatures by July 9, 2018, though he said they will aim for 20,000.

Medenwald had asked Rep. Pam Anderson, D-Fargo, to sponsor a bill repealing the blue law and lobbied lawmakers to support it. The House passed House Bill 1163 by a vote of 48-46 in January, but Senators turned it down, voting 22-25 in March.

Currently, many businesses are not allowed to be open between midnight and noon Sunday with several exceptions, including grocery stores, drug stores, restaurants, hospitals and newspapers. The measure would repeal almost all of Century Code Chapter 12.1-30 and modify one section that forbids leases requiring a business to open Sunday mornings by applying it only to leases signed before Jan. 1, 2019.

Medenwald said the measure wouldn't change anything for alcohol retailers and automobile dealers, which are addressed in a different chapter. He said some raised health concerns about Sunday alcohol sales and dealers didn't want to open Sundays when banks are closed, so petitioners didn't try to tackle those.