The official state song of Indiana is “On the Banks of the Wabash,” but it probably ought to be that old Chicago tune, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” That’s because Indiana observes three different time zones. Five counties each in the northwest (where I live) and southwest corners are on Central Time year round. Five counties in the southeast corner near Cincinnati are on Eastern Time year round, and the rest of the state is always on Eastern Standard Time, never observing daylight savings time. That means that for half the year, most of the state is on the same time as Chicago, and for the other half, it is on the same time as Cincinnati.
It’s pretty confusing. I’ve lived here for 11 years and we still have to think about whether we are on the same time as my Mother-in-law, who lives near Indianapolis, whenever we call at night. For half of the football season, we are on the same time as Purdue, which is in West Lafayette, and for the other half, Purdue is an hour ahead.
On Monday, the Indiana House of Representatives voted to put the entire state on daylight savings time. Our new Governor, Mitch Daniels (R), made getting on to daylight savings time a priority in his campaign, but the bill passed the house by only three votes. Even though his party controls both houses, passage in the Senate isn’t a sure thing. My rep, who is also a Republican, originally voted against it, but changed his mind under pressure from Daniels. He (my rep) felt that having the rest of the state an hour off from us year round would further isolate us from the rest of the state. I don’t see how that’s possible, but that’s another column.
One problem the bill faces in the Senate is that there is one provision that violates federal law. That provision allows for counties that border on the ten Central Time counties to opt out of DST. Federal law says that a state with more than one time zone can either observe DST statewide, or in the entire portion of one of the time zones. Technically, the counties near Cincinnati that currently observe DST are violating that law, but they have never been punished for it.
So, it looks like the state is on its way to joining the rest of America in our semiannual tradition of going around our house and changing our clocks. The next fight is whether or not the rest of Indiana should remain in the Eastern Time zone, or switch to Central, as Daniels wants.
As an aside, and in keeping with Indiana's tradition of just being goofy, the original proposal stated that DST would go into effect on June 5th, meaning that most of the state would join DST already in progress, and then switch clocks the same time everyone else does going forward. I'm not sure if that part survived into the final version, or why there was such a pressing need to change clocks that it couldn't wait until 2006.