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Archive for Sunday, October 30, 2005

Daylight time serious business in Maine

October 30, 2005

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— John Rossignol says, "Let there be light."

Who can blame him? The winter sun goes down earlier in the day in his northern Maine hometown of Van Buren than anywhere else in the continental United States.

That's why you can count Rossignol - and most other Mainers - among the fans of Congress' decision to extend daylight-saving time by a month beginning in 2007.

But he asks: why not make it 12 months a year?

With daylight-saving time ending at 2 a.m. today, most people turn back their clocks and set the stage for early darkness.

Come mid-December, the sun will set at Van Buren and some neighboring towns as early as 3:42 p.m., according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. That's before most people get home from work and many children get home from school. Heck, soap operas are still on TV at that hour.

Daylight-saving time is serious business in Maine.

Six months ago, state legislators introduced a bill proposing that Mainers vote on whether to move from the Eastern time zone to the Atlantic time zone. That would align the state with the Canadian Maritime Provinces and accomplish the same thing as staying in the Eastern time zone and extending daylight time year-round.

The measure passed unanimously in committee before being voted down.

During the winter, it can be wearisome waking up in the dark, going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark, said Rossignol, a 65-year-old retired electrical contractor.

"It's depressing. But it's beyond our control. There's not much we can do about it," he said in resignation.

It's not just the winter blues that has prompted Mainers to jump on the daylight-saving time bandwagon over the years. Supporters say keeping daylight time year-round would result in energy savings, fewer traffic fatalities, less crime, higher school scores, less obesity and an improved economy.

Jonathan McKane, a state representative from Newcastle, co-sponsored the bill to have Maine join the Atlantic time zone.

"Every year when we fall back, Maine people lose an hour of usable daylight in the afternoon," he said. "They can no longer play outside, work outside, do any kind of home construction or commercial construction. There's no more golf, hunting or the like.

"We couldn't be more counterproductive if we tried."

Daylight-saving time has been around off and on since World War I, when Congress established it as an energy-saving measure. Since 1986, it has run from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October.

This year, Congress voted to extend daylight time by four weeks starting in 2007, from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.

Not everybody likes the idea.

Arizona, Hawaii and parts of Indiana don't observe daylight time at all. And when Congress extended it in 1974 and 1975 to conserve energy, opponents included parents whose children boarded school buses in the dark, farmers and members of some religious faiths whose observances were tied to sunrise and sunset.

The bill calling for Maine to join the Atlantic time zone met defeat in both houses of the Legislature after opponents said it simply wouldn't work.

Others said it would create problems for broadcasting. Prime-time TV shows would run until midnight and Red Sox baseball games would run into the wee hours - which would be difficult for early-to-bed, early-to-rise Mainers.

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