States across nation rethink 'blue laws'

State officials across the nation are looking for different ways to repair budget deficits, and one of the most talked about and controversial is to banish 'blue laws.'  Blue laws force liquor stores to lock their doors on Sunday, and are the last vestiges of prohibition.  The laws are alive and well in roughly one dozen states, but the search for new revenue has some lawmakers rethinking the laws.

Some lawmakers say that there's no time like the present for a change in the laws, and fresh funds.  "We've had testimony from various grocers, convenience stores, of that sort, and those stores have told us they lose a tremendous amount of business to South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida," said Georgia Sen. Seth Harp (R).

Georgia, Indiana, and Connecticut prohibit any retail sales of alcohol on Sunday, and 15 states ban only liquor sales.  The Sunday sales debate is on in virtually every cash strapped state where blue laws continue to exist.  In Georgia, action is expected soon on a proposal to allow communities decide whether they want to sell alcoholic beverages on Sunday.  "It's idea - an outdated law - and the most important part is revenues for the state."

Peter Cressey with the Distilled Spirits Council says he agrees.  "If you can sell Monday through Saturday, why not Sunday?"  As a practicing Christian myself, I don't think the government should be in the business of determining what day is the Sabbath," he said.

However, conservative religious groups say that the last thing society needs - especially during stressful economic times - is another day to sell liquor.  "I know the media loves to make people on this side of the issue look like Bible-thumpers who want to impose their will," said Jim Beck with the Christian Coalition.  "Just because something is consistent with values expressed in one religion doesn't make it bad policy."  Economists at MIT and the University of Notre Dame found last spring that repealing blue laws restricting Sunday commerce led to a decline in church attendance and donations.

In Oklahoma, the law permits only the sale of low-alcohol beer or malt liquor on Sundays, and so far there has been no effort here to repeal or change the law.