Bill proposing stores to be closed on Thanksgiving - Not beloved by free market believers

By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog

ST. LOUIS – A Missouri lawmaker wants you to enjoy your turkey and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, but not buy a LCD high-definition TV at a low, low price.

State Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, has pre-filed what he calls the Thanksgiving Family Protection Act, which would prohibit all retail establishments except restaurants, gas stations and drug stores from opening on Thanksgiving.

Roorda said he filed the bill, which is co-sponsored by Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, in response to major retailers such as Walmart and Target moving back their Black Friday sales to Thursday.

“It’s Thanksgiving Day, not Black Friday’s Eve,” Roorda said.  “It’s just silly what these retailers are doing to the families of folks that work for them. I think government has a role in regulating the market, and in this particular case our role is clear — it’s a day that’s supposed to be about family and reflecting and giving thanks, not about corporate greed and prosperity.”

It’s a move that would seem to spit in the face of free markets.

Show-Me Institute policy analyst David Stokes said Missouri went through a similar fight with blue laws, which restricted retailers’ operation on Sundays and have largely been repealed.

“It’s not the government’s role to tell businesses when they can operate,” he told Missouri Watchdog. “It’s the stores’ decision if they want to operate and serve their customers.”

“I think that’s a poor policy choice.”

Missouri Retailers Association President David Overfelt said his organization is adamantly against the bill.

He noted that some employees volunteer to work Thanksgiving because they receive extra holiday pay.

“If a store wants to open or an employee wants to work they shouldn’t be forced not to from a policy perspective,” Overfelt told Watchdog.

It’s unfair to force Missouri retailers to close while online stores such as Amazon continue to operate on Thanksgiving, he said.

“Stores that are only cyber are taking orders.”

Roorda filed his bill on Monday, the first full day that legislators could pre-file bills for the next regular session, which begins Jan. 9.

If the bill became law, Missouri would not be the first state to enact such legislation. A handful of states have similar laws on the books.

Maine, for example, requires that stores with more than 5,000 square feet of space be closed on Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.