Burning Daylight

State again considers breaking from national daylight-savings time

Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2006

Some Alaskans say they are tired of playing roulette with their clocks twice a year to observe daylight-saving time.

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An Eagle River resident even has a Web site dedicated to his frustration.

"On Sunday, those who (forgot) to 'spring forward' were an hour late for church, missed airplane flights, and were late for any other function if they showed up on Sunday using the previous day's time," wrote Lynn Willis, on www.endalaskadaylightsaving.com.

Alaskans will need to "spring forward" by setting their clocks one hour ahead come April 2. And starting next year, daylight-saving time is set to start three weeks earlier in the spring, the second Sunday in March, and one week later in the fall, the first Sunday in November, thanks to a provision in an energy bill that Congress passed last summer.

Two bills are inching their way through the Alaska Legislature with the aim of killing the state's observance of daylight-saving time. Federal law allows states to opt out of the observance.

"People think it's a major inconvenience to change their clocks," said Rep. Vic Kohring, R-Wasilla, a co-sponsor of the bill. Aside from the annoyance, people in his district say it is an issue of freedom and not wanting the government to tell them what to do.

The concept of rebelling against the nation's time regime is not new in Alaska, nor is it exclusive to this state.

The business community is the loudest voice in the debate to keep the status quo. Rep. Norm Rokeberg, R-Anchorage, said scrapping the observance would make dealings with the Lower 48 states more hectic.

By not observing daylight-saving time, Alaska would be two hours behind Seattle for six months of the year.

Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar said that during the time his state was one of the few in the nation that did not observe the time change, doing business around the time of the change was like "death by a thousand paper cuts."

Scheduling conference calls, coordinating flights and getting cargo and supplies on time were all part of the nightmare, Brinegar said.

"It was horrifically confusing," he said.

Indiana's Legislature in April 2005 narrowly approved giving up the Hoosier State's independence, and observed daylight-saving time. Brinegar said Indianans will save $660 million on electricity costs because of the move.

Now only Arizona and Hawaii stand apart from the union. The two sunny states maintain that they do not need any extra daylight.

House Bill 176 was amended this session to say that, if passed, an advisory vote would be placed on the next general election ballot to ask Alaskans what they think about the issue.

Maridon Boario, aide to Rep. Woody Salmon, D-Beaver, the sponsor of the bill, said the House State Affairs Committee added that change because lawmakers said the issue was too emotional for the Legislature to decide without significant comment from the public.

"I think one hour is not a big change anyway," said Ariel Yadao, an employee with the Alaska Division of Insurance.

Child-care provider Margie Hamburger said we should respect the Earth's natural rhythms and not try to manipulate the time for daylight.

"I'm always late for work the next day," barista Kayla Wilson said of Mondays after the "spring forward."

Wilson and others said they couldn't say why the observance began in the first place. Some people were told it was set up to help farmers tend fields later at night.

For the record, farmers have historically opposed daylight-saving time, citing that they needed earlier sunlight to dry crops sprinkled with morning dew, and to handle livestock such as cows needing to be milked.

The idea to conserve daylight was suggested by Ben Franklin, who proposed the time shift to save money on candles and kerosene for lamps. Congress introduced the clock shift schedule during World War I and again in World War II.

Part of the country continued to observe daylight-saving time after the war. Then Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966.

Alaska made the switch in 1983 when it chose to consolidate most of the state from four time zones into one, with the Aleutian Islands going into the Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time Zone.

Several past attempts were made in the Alaska Legislature to eliminate daylight-saving time - one even reached the House Floor. The current House Bill 176 is in the House Finance Committee and Senate Bill 120 awaits the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee.

According to the National Weather Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, sunrise on April 2 is predicted to be at 6:23 a.m. and sunset should be at 7:43 p.m. after the clock change.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at andrew.petty@juneauempire.com.

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