Legislators aim to kill daylight savings

Critics say being two hours behind Seattle time will hurt business

Posted: Friday, April 08, 2005

For those who forgot to set the clock ahead Sunday for daylight savings time, a new bill before the Alaska Legislature could ease the yearly burden.

The House of Representatives is considering a bill that would exempt the state from observing national daylight savings time, which sets time ahead an hour in April and then back an hour in October.

Proposed by Ben Franklin, daylight savings time was created so Americans wouldn't have to burn more candles and kerosene for lamps in the winter and farmers could have more sunlight to attend to their fields.

"This rationale works in Lower 48 states, but it doesn't work well in Alaska because of the vast geographical expanse. The majority of the state is located in areas where that hour saved doesn't give us daylight and doesn't save us any energy," said Moira Smith, aide to Rep. Woodie Salmon, D-Beaver, co-sponsor of the bill.

In northern areas of Alaska the sun sets around 4 p.m. in October and after clocks are set back, darkness begins at 3 p.m.

This bill has surfaced several times since Alaska adopted daylight savings in 1983, but the bill has always died in committees. Thursday, the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee approved the bill and passed it to the State Affairs Committee.

The Senate also has a version of this bill to eliminate daylight savings.

"The bill was actually requested by a number of my constituents," said Sen. Donald Olson, D-Nome. "The main reason had to do with people's changing of times, changing of sleep patterns."

Opposition has come from the business community, like Paula Rak of Wrangell, who phoned in her testimony Thursday.

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

"If you get phone calls at 5 in the morning because it's their business time, then it's very inconvenient for us," she said.

Lawmakers feel that now e-mails and fax machines can help with the headaches of time differences.

"Even though we have the Internet and fax machines, we still have to talk to people on the phone," Rak said.

Lynn Willis of Eagle River testified that not moving clocks would help companies that do business with Asia, which does not observe the time change. The majority of Saskatchewan and northeastern British Columbia do not observe daylight savings.

States are not required by federal law to move their clocks. But if they do participate they must change their clocks on the uniform days.

Arizona, Hawaii and portions of Indiana are the only states that have exempted themselves from the national system; they run on "standard time" year-round.

Farmers in Indiana said they preferred earlier sunlight in the morning to dry their fields and an early sunset to end their workday sooner. Residents in Arizona and Hawaii, two areas known for sweltering heat, did not want an extra hour of sun.

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

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