SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Car dealers in Illinois are opposing a bill sponsored by State Senator Jim Oberweis (R- Sugar Grove) that seeks to repeal a 32-year ban on Sunday car sales in the state.
Oberweis proposed the “blue law” legislation after he was approached by a handful of constituents who questioned why the state did not allow car sales on Sundays. So far, Senate Bill 2629 hasn’t made Oberweis a “hero for car dealers,” as he assumed it might. But the lawmaker maintains his belief that government should not dictate when businesses can operate.
“That’s the way they do it in Russia,” Oberweis said. “In Russia, the government tells businesses when they can be open and when they can’t. It’s not supposed to be like that in America.”
The Illinois Automobile Dealers Association (IADA) expressed its opposition to SB 2629 in a recently released fact sheet. It showed that dealers are in favor of giving employees that day off, especially since banks are not able to finance vehicles on Sundays. The IADA also said lifting the ban on Sunday sales would increase dealership costs without increasing sales, which it believes could lead to higher prices for consumers.
“Our auto dealers like the current law,” said Joe McMahon, director of government affairs for the IADA. “Every state around us is closed. Salespeople really like that Sunday off.”
McMahon added that he doesn’t believe consumers are deprived by the Sunday closures. “In the old days, they probably would come out four or five times to a dealership. I think a lot of that stuff now is done online. That’s open 24/7,” he said, pointing out that some customers enjoy roaming dealer lots on Sundays at their leisure with no employees present.
Introduced in December, SB 2629 is waiting to be assigned to a committee. Oberweis said the bill will need significant Democratic support in order to move forward at all, but he didn’t give any predictions as to whether his bill will gain their backing. “I really don’t know,” Oberweis said. “We’ll find out in the next month or so.”
Illinois’ blue law was adopted in 1982. It was signed into law by former Governor James R. Thompson, who told the Associated Press at the time that he had doubts about the ban.
“Since consumers will still have a chance to purchase automobiles six days and nights a week … and since I am inclined to take any reasonable step that may help an ailing industry, I will, in this instance, defer to the judgment of the Legislature,” he said in the Associated Press’ July 14, 1982, article, which appeared in The Free Lance-Star.
The AP article also quoted supporters of the ban. They argued that “if one car dealer stayed open on Sundays, the rest in that town would believe they had to be open too.”
Oberweis said that argument prevents competition in the marketplace, though. “That’s absolutely wrong under all circumstances,” he said, pointing out that Hobby Lobby’s and Chik-Fila’s decisions to close on Sundays for religious reasons didn’t prompt other businesses to do the same.
According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, approximately 20 states ban auto sales on Sundays.