Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

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.

9 comments:

Chris J. Breisch said...

Actually, the part that's in violation of federal law has been blown out of proportion by the media. I'm fairly certain that if the law were to pass "as-is" and the Federal government were to take up the case, they'd get their hats handed to them.

Why? The law simply states that if you have two counties in the same time zone, you can't have one observe DST and the other not observe DST. It has to be done on a state basis, not a county basis. The problem is that Indiana is already in violation of this law, as you pointed out. The majority of the state is in the Eastern Time zone, but only a few counties in that time zone observe DST. There is a principal in law, I think it's called "a priori", but I may be mistaken which essentially says "this may be in violation of the law, but it's always been that way, and you haven't prosecuted yet, so you can't now." That's very much a layman's definition. A true legal scholar could define it better and give you the proper term to boot.

What it means for the state of Indiana, though, is this. Since the Federal government has never done anything about our existing violation of this law, they can't now when we're changing our situation, but we're still going to be in violation of it. We've always been in violation, and we're still going to be.

The Federal governemtn would have to pursue legal action against Indiana's current situation, rather than a new one brought out by a new law. Such a case would be extremely difficult for the Federal government to win though, since we've been in violation now for 40 years or so. We're "grandfathered in" so to speak.

Jerry P. Palm said...

I have no doubt the Feds would let Indiana do whatever it wanted. I don't really think they care much, or, as you say, they would have done something about it already. For some reason, though, some Indiana senators do care.


I didn't even know it was illegal until this whole issue came up again.

Chris J. Breisch said...

I believe an amendment changed the switch over date to April of next year.

Chris J. Breisch said...

Do you think the Indiana Senators really care, or is it just a convenient excuse to vote against it? I wonder...

mike c said...

arizona also does not observe daylight saving time. that is, in the winter, they are on mountain time (same as utah and colorado), but in the summer, they are on pacific time (same as california). as far as i know, the entire state of arizona does this, but then there are no chicago's or cincinnati's near the state of arizona.

mike c said...

"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."

i do not understand this part. if the counties near cincy are in violation of said federal law, wouldn't the counties in NW and SW Indiana be in violation, too? those counties change their clocks along with chicago, just as the SE Indiana counties change clocks with Cincy.

Jerry P. Palm said...

I'll try to clear it up. There are technically two time zones in the state - eastern and central. The law says, essentially, that the entire part of each time zone has to observe DST or not. The entire central time zone (10 counties) in Indiana observes DST, so that's OK. However, the entire eastern time zone does not because of the counties near Cinci, and that's why it violates the law.

zach said...

I live in arizona and as someone said they do not observe dst. The Navajo (northeast) region does though. It is already tough enough as a sports fan since times are almost always give in Eastern, and if the day that clocks change is close I have to be careful about putting things like that on my calendar. I could not imagine if the state was on three different times.

Tom said...

Since I'm basically in the same boat as Jerry on this (living in the Central Time Zone and attending Purdue games throughout the year), all I can say to "My Man Mitch" is PLEEEEEEEAAAAASSSEEE get this done!