Wednesday, April 13, 2005

It's Time for a Change

Can we spring forward yet?

As I write this, the Daylight Saving Time Bill has been sent to a joint conference committee to be reworked. The final version coming out of committee then has to be passed by both the Indiana House and the Senate before it can be sent to the governor, who supports adopting DST.

I’m hoping that by the time you read this, the legislation will be passed, but I don’t hold out too much hope. The General Assembly has until the end of the month to pass it.

This year, though, the time bill has had the best shot of passing in many years. In fact, maybe they should rename it the Phoenix Bill, because it has risen from the ashes twice this session already. (And, as an ironic twist, Phoenix is the capital of Arizona, which is the other state that refuses to observe daylight saving time.)

The first time the bill died was when the Democrats in the House walked out March 30 in protest of unrelated legislation. It was brought back to life after representatives figured out a place to put it in another bill that was gutted.

Then on April 8, the House voted the time bill down by a slim 50 to 49 margin. But because there were not 51 votes against it, it still had the slimmest of chances of being resurrected yet again. Later that night, that’s exactly what happened when the governor called some no-voting House members and asked them to change their minds.

Unfortunately, by the time the bill had passed out of the House, it was carrying some excess baggage that the Indiana Senate, not to mention the federal government, was opposed to. It carried an amendment sponsored by Dale Grubb (a Democrat from Covington), that would allow his county, and other counties on the border of the Central Time Zone, to opt out of the daylight saving time requirement.

The Feds say counties can’t do that, (even though some counties near Louisville have been doing it unofficially for years). And Robert Garton, Senate Pres. Pro Tempore, said the Senate wouldn’t pass a bill with an illegal provision.

So there we have it. The bill is being sent to conference committee to iron out its wrinkles and allow both chambers of the General Assembly one last shot at passing an overly contentious bill that really ought to be a no-brainer for passage.

Given that a majority of Hoosiers favor going to DST, that the governor made it a campaign issue, that business interests and broadcasters are backing it, and that it doesn’t cost the state a dime, it seems ludicrous that there would even be a single hold out. But I put the odds at about 50-50 right now.

Obviously, if the General Assembly has already acted on the bill, my prediction of its chances is a moot point. But when you’re predicting something as contentious as a time bill in Indiana, 50-50 odds seemed as safe a bet as any.

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