AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine House of Representatives narrowly endorsed a bill on Tuesday that would roll back state “blue laws” to allow small grocery stores to open on Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter.
The chamber passed the bill after a 79-66 vote in which 64 Republicans joined 11 Democrats to vote against a call to kill the bill, which would let cities and towns pass ordinances allowing grocery stores between 5,000 and 10,000 feet to open on those holidays.
It was sponsored by Rep. James Gillway, R-Searsport, who proposed it on behalf of Tozier’s Family Market in his town. On a recent Easter drive, he said he noticed while “corporations” like McDonald’s and Rite Aid were open, the “local guy” wasn’t able to open.
“You will never see in this chamber a more home-rule bill than this one,” Gillway said.
The bill drew opposition from most Democrats alongside Rep. Stacey Guerin, R-Glenburn, who said she was voting for “family time” for workers and that bigger stores would use it to “a stepping stone” to open on major holidays. It faces further action in the Republican-led Senate.
Maine’s current ban on certain businesses opening on Sundays and holidays is part of the state’s web of “blue laws” — holdovers from the state’s Puritan history. They’re often targeted in the Legislature and there are many exemptions, including for convenience stores.