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Today’s history lesson

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

* WBEZ’s Lauren Chooljian traces the origins of Illinois’ Sunday car sales ban

The state’s Sunday auto sales ban is one of many state-level blue laws, which — as a category — prohibit certain secular activities on Sundays. The ban first made its way through the Illinois legislature in 1951. Dealers wanted to allow a day off, but any single dealership couldn’t close its doors while competitors stayed open. Legislators agreed to a mandatory day off and passed a bill to make it happen, but the story got complicated as soon as the bill hit Governor Adlai Stevenson’s desk.

Stevenson’s Attorney General, Ivan A. Elliott, encouraged the governor to veto the bill, saying it likely violated the Illinois Constitution “as an interference with the right of an individual to pursue any trade or occupation which is not injurious to the public or a menace to the safety or welfare of society.”

Stevenson heeded the AG’s word, and vetoed Senate Bill 504.

“If such a restriction on Sunday trade is sound for automobiles, why should it not be extended to newspapers, groceries, ice cream cones and other harmless commercial transactions?” Stevenson wrote in a veto message. “Carried to its logical extreme, any business group with sufficient influence in the legislature can dictate the hours of business of its competitors. And if hours, why not prices?”

Go read the whole thing. I learned quite a lot from this piece.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - RonOglesby - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 9:36 am:

    “Carried to its logical extreme, any business group with sufficient influence in the legislature can dictate the hours of business of its competitors. And if hours, why not prices?”

    yes. this.

  2. - OneMan - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 9:37 am:

    When I was a kid, South Holland had a ton of Blue Laws, not sure how many they still have. But for example you couldn’t use the drive through on Sunday at McDonnalds or get a to-go order on Sundays either.

  3. - PublicServant - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 9:39 am:

    You’ll be glad to know, Ron, that he was a fine example of a liberal democrat. Glad to count you among his many admirers.

  4. - Steve - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 9:43 am:

    This is a great example of how big auto dealers wanted to limit competition and take Sundays off. This is rent-seeking gone wild. Like other industries don’t have employees that have families???? This is a classic case of restraint of trade. Why have anti-trust laws if they aren’t going to be enforced??

  5. - Walker - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 9:44 am:

    Where I grew up in New England, eons ago, many towns had bans on all retail commercial activity on Sundays, a holdover from Puritan days. The bans pretty much disappeared in the 50s and 60s.

    Removing the bans, even then, was called an “attack on religious freedoms.” We haven’t changed much, in some quarters.

  6. - A guy... - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 9:49 am:

    I’d sure miss the unattended leisurely strolls looking at cars on Sunday before becoming prey upon my return visit.

  7. - Ron Burgundy - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 9:49 am:

    When I was young and living in Metro East, I recall Missouri having some extensive blue laws regulating shopping, just plain old shopping, on Sundays. The line off I-64 on Sundays from the west to get to St. Clair Square used to be huge.

    I kind of understand the desire of car dealers to get a day off, but am a bit uneasy about legislating it. Also, why Sunday when many people are off and want to go out and look at or test drive cars. Monday would seem a better choice. Maybe keep the service departments open.

  8. - RonOglesby - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 9:49 am:

    From the full article:
    “Sloan says a six-day work week helps dealers attract high-caliber employees; he argues it’s hard to find full-time salesmen who will commit to working on commission when the dealership is open seven days a week.”

    I guess in all the other states they can’t find good sales people and no one gets a day off… I sold cars in the 90’s for a bit and you got Sunday off and one other day. Some how my haircut place is open 7 days, the cell phone store, the rental shop down the street, small engine repair shop… A law dictating days of operation is simply silly.

  9. - wordslinger - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 9:50 am:

    –Removing the bans, even then, was called an “attack on religious freedoms.” –

    No orthodox Jews in the hood back in the day, I take it, lol.

  10. - Old Shepherd - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 9:50 am:

    America needs more Adlai Stevensons.

  11. - RonOglesby - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 9:51 am:

    —You’ll be glad to know, Ron, that he was a fine example of a liberal democrat. Glad to count you among his many admirers.—

    I admire many democrats and many republicans. I am a little “r” republican if that makes sense. I believe in freedom for the individual to the maximum, I believe in limited government coercion.

    Hell, read some of the JFK speeches about the economy, and public service. Love them. But tossing out “Democrat”… JFK couldnt get elected today in Illinois if you published his speeches under another name.

  12. - Anon III - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 10:17 am:

    That was back when Illinois governments ran on a three percent sales tax, a personal property tax, real estate taxes, and no state income tax.

  13. - Walker - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 10:21 am:

    ===Not a lot of orthodox Jews in the hood, back in the day, I take it. LOL===

    Wait! Some of my best friends were …!

    Oh never mind.

  14. - John Galt - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 10:22 am:

    Agreed, on it’s face, I don’t see the point of the Sunday ban.

    1) As for “people need to take time off”….there are 7 days of the week. Pick one or two to take off. All kinds of cops, doctors, nurses, rail workers, hotel staff, waiters, etc. have non-traditional hours. I’m sure car salesmen, if they wanted, could suck it up and take off Mondays if they wanted.

    2) And with the financial transactions on Sundays–somehow other states do it. I’m sure Illinois could figure it out.

    As for WHY the ban exists though, that’s easy—concentrated organized interests (existing auto dealerships) vs. individual car buyers. One goes to Springfield, lobbies, and donates cash to campaigns. The other doesn’t….

  15. - Former State Senator - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 10:24 am:

    Voting in favor of this ban at the behest of the car dealers and with no opposition from anyone else may have been my worst vote (of those I recall) of my legislative tenure.

  16. - Deal me in - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 10:43 am:

    I think the article misses out on a key element of the ‘82 bill. Illinois was in the middle of the recession, bleeding lots of jobs to the southeast, especially. Rust belt was being coined.

    This was primarily a way for dealers to reduce costs and they figured it wouldn’t change the number of cars sold, which was probably accurate.

    Salaried employees don’t work, air conditioning and heat are off, etc.

    I’m not sure where the rent seeking aspect comes in. If anything, it’s the opposite as there are probably some number of sales that go to Gary, Terra Haute, StL, or Beloit because of the ban. Since all Illinois dealers have to abide by the rule, there is no competitive advantage gained.

  17. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 10:59 am:

    Attending university in Germany, I used to complain that businesses were closed more than they were open due to restricted business hours. After a year, I assimilated and began to enjoy the routine of having business closed as often as it was. This way of thinking isn’t consumer friendly - but consumerism wasn’t the way thing worked, even in the US not so very long ago.

    Blue laws are obsolete. While they may create havens of vacation for some businesses, in today’s global Internet world, they are hindering the 21st Century way of doing business. I would consider them a problem today.

  18. - low level - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 11:05 am:

    Oh Ron - again with the Republicon nonsense that JFK was really one of yours. Sorry, many moderates like him today as well. Stevenson was further to the left and Kennedy was a bit to the right. Same as today - Boxer on the left and Landireu on the right. It’s a large tent party - unlike yours.

  19. - RonOglesby - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 11:06 am:

    Ahh low level. ever vote for an R? I can at least say I ahve voted (more than once) for a D… such a party open to ideas.

    We should all remember not to convert our politics to a personal religion.

  20. - RNUG - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 11:09 am:

    Like -Ron Burgundy-, I remember St Louis (actually St Louis County I believe) having blue laws into the 1970’s barring most retail sales on Sunday.

    Closer to home, we used to bar liquor sales before noon on Sunday. I have no idea if this one is still in effect.

  21. - dupage dan - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 11:11 am:

    Never made any sense to me. If a restaurant is closed any day of the week it would most likely be Monday. Most dealerships could adjust their schedules so sales staff could get some weekend time off each month to spend with family. This is just mystifying. Baffling even.

  22. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 11:12 am:

    Deal me in

    Thanks - I had heard the same thing. Being closed one day a week reduced variable costs by 14%, and while some buyers may have crossed a state line, Illinois vehicle sales didn’t go down by 14%.

  23. - Keyser Soze - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 11:46 am:

    Saturdays and Sundays are far more convenient to buyers; most work during the normal Monday-Friday work week.

  24. - RNUG - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 12:07 pm:

    Actually, with the advent of the 25 - 32 hour “part time” job the last few years, a lot of people are starting to have time off M-F.

  25. - Precinct Captain - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 12:17 pm:

    Re: JFK

    The light of history and research shines a different light on a lot of people. You could see that light now if you paid close attention. All the same mantras about work are present throughout the speeches of most presidents, including President Obama today. Oftentimes the way he talks is seen as patronizing from the targets of his remarks, but just because he supports a social safety the deranged folks in some deep political corners attack him mercilessly using all kinds of words in a fact and context free fashion just like they did to JFK and others.

  26. - low level - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 12:32 pm:

    Ron - lol. Not only have I voted for a R, but was ready to do so in November had Dillard been nominated.

  27. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 12:48 pm:

    A couple points- with disclosure that my info comes from car dealer friends who strongly oppose the bill.
    1) Financing-in other states, dealers have ways to work around banks being closed on Sunday, including manufacturer financing (e.g. GMAC) non-bank lenders and “indirect lending” where a bank or other lender is providing financing to dealers who do their own credit approvals. (I suspect more new cars are financed one of these three ways than through a physical “bank” anyway.)
    2) Internet-more and more cars are being sold over the Internet, with the first face to face contact occuring when the buyer arrives at the dealership to pick up the car. ( I don’t know how Sunday sales factor in here, but Web sales are going up steadily.)

    Hope these help in the discussion. Personally, I like Sunday tire kicking and prefer they stay closed.

  28. - Silliness - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 12:55 pm:

    This had nothing to do with time off and everything to do with not wanting to give consumers two days in a row to go car shopping. Imagine how many more dealerships you can hit if you have two days instead of one.

  29. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 12:57 pm:

    I will never understand why everything must circle back to talking points and “my party is better than your party” for some.

    Stevenson was a great governor for our state, no matter what party you belong to.

  30. - Newsclown - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 2:02 pm:

    Second try, because of cookie troubles…

    Whatever the motivations were int he past, why do I get the sneaky feeling the people that want to change it now are the super-duper-sized conglomerated dealers, and not the little mom-and pop used car lot folks? It wouldn’t be a means to force smaller operations to merge or fail, would it? Naw, probably just me being paranoid…

  31. - Emily Booth - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 2:05 pm:

    There are a couple of east coast states with blue laws, Massachusetts is one of them, who don’t have the Thanksgiving Black Friday shopping frenzy. I think the Puritans got it right in this situation.

  32. - A guy... - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 2:54 pm:

    At least this time we didn’t need to go back to Lincoln to brag about an Illinoisan.

  33. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 3:50 pm:

    Newsclown, as I understand it, the dealers’ association indicates the megastores are just as opposed as the smaller guys, fwiw.

  34. - Capitol View - Tuesday, May 6, 14 @ 9:44 pm:

    there was another bill on this topic back in 1982 or so. I wonder why it was necessary.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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