From prematurely shuttered retailers to lifeless, peopleless downtown haunts, Sundays in many parts of the deep South are an utter bore.
Blue laws, which restrict alcohol sales, shopping and other activities on a supposed — and one would add, arbitrary — day of rest, are probably unconstitutional since they attempt to regulate what people can and can't do based solely on religious doctrine dating all the way back to Genesis and on an omnipotent deity's apparent need for rest.
Slide past the questionable legality of these regulations and the non sequitur that an all-powerful being can become overworked or would even desire a day of rest, and we can pinpoint a more pressing question.
Would repealing blue laws in the South assist in tightening budget shortfalls in some of the poorest states in the nation?
It’s not coincidental, nor terribly surprising, that among 14 states with Sunday liquor sale laws on the books, eight of them — Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia — have poverty rates at 16 percent or more of the total population of each state, according to a report released in September from the U.S. Census Bureau. Further, areas in this region of the nation require more educational funding, not less, and one could make the case that lifting blue laws on alcohol and Sunday shopping may provide a significant financial boost to regions that need it the most.
Some of the more forward-thinking states recognize the increased economic potential of loosening up liquor and consumption regulations. A CNBC article from September 2010 indicates that Massachusetts, Arizona and others are rolling back the time at which people can begin drinking. In the former state, for instance, consumers can begin ordering cocktails at 10 a.m. on Sundays, which is two hours earlier than the previously allowed time.
Terming the new law, “common-sense, pro-business legislature,” Arizona Rep. Matt Heinz said allowing alcohol sales to start at 6 a.m. would boost business revenues, particularly in the state’s resort communities.
In Connecticut, which seems to be one of the more surprising states on the blue law list, the mayors of Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford support repealing the state’s Sunday liquor laws altogether. The mayors have made the case that the state could receive $8 million per year in added revenue if repealed.
But in the financially hagridden southern states, lessons are hard-won.
A look at a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report reveals that most states have enacted cuts to education, public health and other services, but it seems that the states in the deep South could at least put a sizable dent in shortfalls if politicians could get past the anachronisms that prop up the flimsy case for blue laws.