Oklahoma Gives Voters Power to Roll Back Blue Laws

Published July 27, 2017

A new law will allow Oklahoma voters to vote to roll back local government restrictions preventing sales of wine and liquor on Sundays.

On May 31, Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed into law Senate Bill 211, which will allow county commissioners to hold ballot referenda on allowing Sunday sales, or voters to place a question on the ballot by petition. The law takes effect in October 2018.        

Oklahoma is one of 11 states with such restrictions, commonly known as “blue laws.” Oklahoma has had blue laws since before its establishment as a state, held over from statutes written by the Oklahoma Territorial Legislature in 1890.

Other activities the state government still prohibits on Sundays include boxing, wrestling, bingo, and automobile sales.

‘Huge Step Forward’

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Stephanie Bice (R-Oklahoma City), says the enactment of her reform will open up competition in the state.

“This was really a huge step forward for Oklahoma, and something that I think was necessary,” Bice said. “It was really an economic development initiative, because a lot of craft breweries were beginning to open up, that had barriers to entering the marketplace.”

Cronyism vs. Customers

Trent England, executive vice-president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, says although big government and big business often go hand in hand, it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Businesses are happy to live within government rules that are to the detriment of their customers, if it keeps the cost of business lower and lets them make more profit,” England said. “At the same time, they recognize that arguing against these new initiatives is arguing against their customers.”