Daylight-saving bill wakes up Alaskans

Posted: Sunday, April 07, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Judging from messages to Rep. Lisa Murkowski's office, people are as worried about having to set their clocks forward Sunday as they are about paying taxes or losing permanent fund dividends.

''I have never received more correspondence, either through public opinion messages or e-mails, than we have on daylight-saving time,'' said the Anchorage Republican.

Murkowski, who is chair of the House Labor and Commerce Committee, has scheduled a hearing Monday on a bill to eliminate daylight-saving time. Rep. Ken Lancaster, R-Soldotna, sponsored House Bill 409.

Murkowski's staff said close to 100 people have called or written the office, and only a handful opposed the bill.

Murkowski is astounded by interest in the issue, considering other weighty matters legislators are debating as they look for ways to close a budget gap of about a billion dollars a year.

''We're talking about taking your permanent fund dividend and assessing broad-based taxes, and people want to talk about daylight-saving time,'' Murkowski said.

Alaskans, along with most of the rest of the country, turned their clocks forward one hour early this morning.

Proponents of the bill say because most of Alaska was put on one time zone in 1983, central and western Alaska clocks are already pushed too far ahead. The sun is at its highest point in western Alaska at 2 p.m., or 1 p.m. in the central part of the state. Daylight-saving time kicks it off by another hour.

''They're saying high noon doesn't mean anything in Alaska,'' Murkowski said.

Some supporters of the bill are teachers, concerned that children's natural sleep cycles are based on when the sun sets and rises, and daylight time deprives them of sleep.

Although little opposition has emerged so far, Murkowski said that may change as people begin to think more about the business consequences of the measure.

Eliminating daylight-saving time would put Alaska five hours behind the East Coast during the summer -- making life difficult for those who do business regularly with Washington and New York. Alaska stockbrokers who come to work at 5 a.m. now would have to rise an hour earlier.

That's one reason Rep. Norm Rokeberg, R-Anchorage, refused to hold a hearing on a similar bill when he was Labor and Commerce chairman two years ago.

Removing daylight-saving time would only further distance Alaska from the rest of the country, Rokeberg said.

''I think we're part of the United States,'' he said.

Lancaster said Alaska is so far removed from the East Coast already, he does not believe one more hour in summer will make much difference.

With clocks being turned forward this weekend, Murkowski figures Monday's hearing is good timing -- as long as people don't show up an hour late.

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