JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- An incoming Missouri Democratic lawmaker wants to force many retailers to close for Thanksgiving, saying Tuesday that they are "invading family time" as Black Friday sales encroach into the holiday.
Retailers have moved their Black Friday sales earlier and earlier, and some major chains now open their stores on Thanksgiving night. State Rep.-elect Jeff Roorda dubs his proposal the "Thanksgiving Family Protection Act" and said that the holiday should be about families and not focused profit or greed. Restaurants, gas stations and pharmacies would be exempted.
"I think everybody is sick of the commercialization of Christmas and how out-of-hand that's gotten. And now that's bled over into Thanksgiving," said Roorda, of Barnhart. He previously served three terms in the state House, lost re-election in 2010 and is returning for a final two-year term that starts next month.
Missouri legislators this week could begin submitting bills for the 2013 legislative session that starts Jan. 9.
Stores across the nation generally have opened early the Friday after Thanksgiving with the time getting earlier over the years. Stores including Target Corp., Sears and Toys R Us are now opening Thanksgiving night. Although many Wal-Mart stores are open 24 hours, the retailer offered early specials on Thanksgiving that once were reserved for Black Friday.
David Overfelt, the president of the Missouri Retailers Association, said businesses frequently offer an incentive for employees to work on the holiday and that setting the hours of retailers should not be a concern of state government. He said opening Thursday also seemed to help make Black Friday less hectic.
"I just don't see that this is an issue that should be determined by the Legislature," Overfelt said. "This should be determined by consumers ... and the owner. That's their decision."
In addition, he said requiring Missouri retailers to close for Thanksgiving could spur shoppers to take their business online or to stores in bordering Illinois, Kansas and Oklahoma.
Also criticizing the proposal is the Associated Industries of Missouri. The business organization said the legislation might be well-intentioned but that it strays from a "free-market business approach."
Elsewhere, a few other states have laws restricting business hours on holidays. In Maine, for example, large department stores with more than 5,000 square feet must be closed on Thanksgiving with exceptions for L.L. Bean, restaurants and others with traditional Thanksgiving business.
Thanksgiving closings is HB37