Bill would do away with daylight savings time in Alaska

Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2002

KENAI (AP) -- Daylight savings time doesn't make sense for Alaska.

That's according to Rep. Ken Lancaster, R-Soldotna, who is sponsoring a bill aimed at doing away with daylight savings time in Alaska once and for all.

The idea has been tried before, without success. But Lancaster says given Alaska's northern location, daylight savings time is ludicrous here.

''Because of our high latitudinal location, the extremities in times for sunrise and sunset are more exaggerated for Alaska than anywhere else in the country,'' Lancaster said. ''This places Alaska in the unique position to be less affected by any type of savings from daylight-saving time.

''The actual benefit attributed to Alaska from daylight-saving time is essentially nonexistent,'' he said.

Alaska once had four times zones -- Pacific, Yukon, Alaska and Bering. Back then, the Alaska Panhandle was in the same time zone as Washington, Oregon and California.

In an effort to improve commerce and communications, those four zones became two in 1983. Most of the state now is on Alaska time, one hour behind the Pacific coast states. Portions of the Aleutian Island chain are on Hawaii-Aleutian time, two hours behind.

Before the institution of standard time by the railroads in 1883, what time it was in any particular place was largely a local decision. Time zones became U.S. law in 1918 when the Standard Time Act was passed. That law also created daylight-saving time, but the idea proved so controversial it was repealed the following year.

Daylight-saving time became law again in World War II as an energy conservation measure, but after the war, its use varied among the states.

For several decades, the Interstate Commerce Commission had jurisdiction over time zones. Today, it is the U.S. Department of Transportation that oversees time zones.

Synchronizing Alaska's clocks to those in the Pacific zone, at least during Alaska's busiest season, would benefit commerce with other U.S. Pacific Rim states and bring our daytime business hours closer to those of the economic centers on the east coast, Lancaster said.

The state's largest revenue-producing industry, the oil and gas industry, works around the clock irrespective of daylight-saving time, he said.

Then there's always the Alaska streak of independence.

''We, as a people, disdain being told what to do by the rest of the country,'' Lancaster said.

Lancaster said his office has had numerous requests, mostly from private citizens, to do away with the twice-annual clock change. One request came from a Soldotna High School government class, he said.

This is not the first time this has been tried in the Alaska Legislature. Rep. Vic Kohring, R-Wasilla, sponsored a bill in 1999 that died for lack of action in committee.

House Minority Leader Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, was a member of the world trade committee back in 1999. He opposed the earlier bill. No hearings have been scheduled on the current bill.

''My line has always been that if they want to save daylight, move it to the winter when we need it,'' Berkowitz joked.

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