Thanks to Stephen Hunter of Hunter Adworks for pointing out one of those little laws passed by the General Assembly this year that we otherwise overlooked. It's House Bill 393, which makes it legal for a dealer to sell a motorcycle on a Sunday.
Gov. Martin O"Malley signed the bill last week, extending the freedom to sell motorcycles from Glen Burnie to Deale as of June 1.
Now if you weren't aware it was illegal for dealers to sell motorcycles on a Sunday, don't feel bad. I wasn't aware of it either. What's most puzzling is why such a goofy remnant of the state's old blue laws ever remained on the books as long as it did. It ceratinly wasn't because the public was clamoring to be protected from Sunday motorcycle sales. The bill, sponsored by the county House delegation (and by motorcyclist-Senator John Astle in that chamber) was approved unanimously in both chambers.
But that's only half the story.
What's truly remarkable is what the bill doesn't do: Free dealers in the rest of Maryland to sell motorcycles or any other vehicles on a Sunday.
Still in effect is this tidbit of legal lunacy:
(d) Except in Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties, and except as provided in subsection (g) of this section, a new or used car dealer may not sell, barter, deliver, give away, show, or offer for sale a motor vehicle or certificate of title for a motor vehicle on Sunday.
A dealer who violates this section can be fined up to $10,000.
That subsection (g) mentioned above now reads:
(g) In ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY AND Worcester County, a dealer may sell, 19 barter, deliver, give away, show, or offer for sale a motorcycle, as defined in § 11–136 20 of the Transportation Article, or certificate of title for a motorcycle on Sunday.
So that leaves 18 counties, plus Balltimore city, where it is illegal to sell a motorcycle on a Sunday. In 21 of those jurisdictions, including Anne Arundel, you still can't sell a car on the first day of the week. (Arundel does have its own exemption for camping trailers and mobile homes.)
So why doesn't the legislature just eliminate this type of absurd regulation entirely? Why not let any dealer who wants to sell a legal vehicle do so any day of the week in whatever county he or she does business?
Generally, it's because the regulated industry wants to be regulated. It's a peculiar form of restraint of trade where the dealers in a county decide they'd rather have the day off than do business. Obviously if one dealer opens on a Sunday, they all have to open on Sunday for competive reasons, so they need a law to enforce their rest day. So these restrictive laws end up getting peeled back one county at a time, one type of vehicle at a time.
If these laws were truly religion-neutral, they would merely require that a dealer close one day a week -- letting Jewish dealers close Saturdays or Muslim dealers to close Fridays. How they could stand up to constitutional scrutiny is something you'll need a lawyer to explain.
Anyway, the motorcycle dealers of Anne Arundel are apparently pleased by this partial, limited blow for freedom. Hunter sent out a new release quoting Bill Phillips, general manager of Harley-Davidson of Annapolis.
"It means a lot for our business," he said. "In the past, we had to turn away business and ask people to come back on Monday. It made it hard for the customer.
"Our motorcycles are a passion, a hobby, and a lot of fun. So being able to sell on Sundays now allows us to help people ride away on their dream any day of the week. We have always been open on Sundays, anyway. But now, we get to not only sell clothing and accessories, we get to sell Harley-Davidsons," he said.
That does sound like fun. So if you live in the city or Baltimore County or Harford County (or any of Maryland's other blue-law) counties and you're thinking of buying a bike, head for Howard or Anne Arundel and spend your money where the government will let you do so any day you choose. (And tell your local dealer you stopped by Sunday but found they were closed.)