Michigan residents can now buy alcohol from certain vendors before noon on Sundays under a new law that has taken effect, but one state lawmaker is looking to give local governments or voters a bit more flexibility on how, if at all, to regulate early-Sunday sales — and Sunday sales in general — in their communities.
State Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) has introduced Senate Bill (SB) 100, which cleared the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee on Thursday, Feb. 10 and awaits consideration by the full state Senate.
Currently, certain establishments — those in which the gross receipts derived from the sale of food and other goods and services exceed 50 percent of total gross receipts — can sell alcohol between the hours of 7 a.m. on Sunday and 2 a.m. on Monday, although local governments and voters can determine whether Sunday sales at all are allowed in that given community.
The bill would allow local governments or voters to determine whether alcohol can be sold between 7 a.m. and noon on Sundays or between 7 a.m. on Sunday and 2 a.m. on Monday, which would trump a Liquor Control Commission (LCC) permit granting early-Sunday liquor sales authority to an establishment in that community.
In addition, a citizen would be allowed to collect signatures to get a “yes” or “no” question on a ballot to put to residents of the community about whether they want early Sunday liquor sales in their community.
Staff in Jones’ Lansing office said that language in the current law is unclear about who has the authority to allow early-Sunday liquor sales — the LCC or the local community. The bill would revert the authority back to local officials. The decision of a local community government or its voters at the ballot box would override previous LCC decisions on early-Sunday or Sunday liquor sales in general in that community.
Under current law, a petition has to be filed with the local or county clerk within 60 days of an election get a ballot question put before voters. Provided that the signatures are validated, the question has to go before the electorate in the next regular state election. Current law also stipulates that such a ballot question cannot go before voters more than once in any four-year period.
Andy Schor, the assistant director of state affairs for the Michigan Municipal League, said the league supports the effort to “clean up” the language to ensure that local governments have the ability to opt out of either Sunday morning liquor sales, or Sunday sales altogether.
“When they passed the law last year, it was done very quickly,” yielding perhaps unclear language, Schor said. “Literally, (from the bill’s) introduction to (it becoming a) law was two weeks, three weeks.”
Lance Binoniemi, executive director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, expressed similar sentiments and said the association is supportive of the proposed changes in the law’s language.
State Sen. David Robertson (R-Waterford) said the legislation, when it gets to the full floor of the Legislature’s upper chamber, will receive his backing.
“I think if communities want to limit Sunday liquor sales in the mornings, they should be free to do so,” he said. “I have confidence in the individual communities” to regulate the issue as they deem appropriate.
State Sen. Mike Kowall (R-Commerce, Highland, Milford, Walled Lake, Wixom, Wolverine Lake, White Lake, Orchard Lake, West Bloomfield) said he expects the legislation to face little meaningful opposition when it comes to the Senate for a vote.
“We’ll be seeing that thing here (in the Senate) and it could be as soon as this week,” Kowall said.