November 1984 was the last time residents of Illinois could do something taken for granted in other states: go to a car dealership and buy a car -- on a Sunday. That's when a law passed by the General Assembly took effect, forcing dealers that wanted to stay open to close their doors.
State Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, who is running for the U.S. Senate, has surprised everyone by sponsoring a bill to lift the ban. It's an excellent idea that is not likely to succeed.
Oberweis thought he was giving these business people relief from burdensome government interference. Only later did he find out that the industry likes being forcibly shut down one day a week. "We've been happily enjoying this law for 32 years," said Joe McMahon, a lobbyist for the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association.
I'm sure. No doubt salespeople and mechanics value being guaranteed the privilege of spending Sundays as they choose. It's only customers who lose out. Dealers profit because it allows them to reduce their costs by going dark without worrying that a competitor will take away their business.
Consumers pay the price, being forced to squeeze their car shopping into the time allowed by the state. The restriction is hard to justify. Other businesses can decide whether to open on Sundays, and some choose not to, from Chick-fil-A to barber shops to book stores.
There is no good reason for the government of Illinois to make that decision for them. In the old days, it didn't, and many downstate auto dealers closed on Sunday anyway. Today's dealers may prefer to be protected from making their own choices. Oberweis deserves credit for recognizing that's not something the state should do.