Friday, January 20, 2006

Time to End Debate on Time

The federal government has made its ruling; the governor just wants to move on to newer issues, and most Hoosiers are ready to get used to the time change.

But a few lawmakers aren’t ready yet to throw in the towel on the time debate. Even though the General Assembly, after a great deal of debate, decided last year to catch Indiana up with the rest of the nation by voting to approve daylight saving time, House Minority Leader Pat Bauer wants the issue to remain alive, at least until the November elections.

“I think for St. Joe County, it disconnects them year-round from the Chicago economy and the transportation hub,” Bauer said at a news conference he called shortly after the Department of Transportation announced that eight Indiana counties would move to the Central Time zone.

Of course, had the DOT decided to allow St. Joseph County to switch to Central Time, as it had petitioned, Bauer would have bemoaned the fact that it would then have been separated from Elkhart County, which is clearly in the same metropolitan area.

Elkhart County did not petition to switch to Central Time, and the DOT had said previously that no counties would be switched unless they asked to be.

Until last week when the DOT announced its decision, 10 Hoosier counties were in the Central Time zone and all observed daylight saving time. Five counties near Chicago in Northwest Indiana along with five more near Evansville in the southwest have been on Central Time for decades.

In all, 17 counties petitioned the DOT, which is the agency in charge of setting time zone boundaries, to switch from Eastern to Central time. The DOT finally ruled last week that eight counties could make the switch.

Two of those counties, Starke and Pulaski, are in Northwest Indiana. The other six, in the southwest, are Knox, Davies, Martin, Dubois, Pike, and Perry.

It probably would have been better to move St. Joseph County and Elkhart County into the Central Time zone, keeping South Bend and Elkhart in step with Chicago all year. But since Elkhart did not petition for a switch, the DOT did not force the issue.

Some democratic lawmakers want Hoosiers to vote on whether all of Indiana should be placed in the Central Time zone. Others want to roll back the move to daylight saving time.

But House Speaker Brian Bosma doesn’t have the time for those kinds of legislative shenanigans. He said the General Assembly was the place to make those decisions, and the decision has already been made.

And with the ruling by the feds last week, the matter should be settled once and for all.

But in an election year, that seldom happens with contentious issues like what time it is in Indiana. Lawmakers, like Bauer, will continue beating the dead horse until they finally realize the life has left it. And that won’t be until after the election.

A lot of people in northern Indiana are not happy with the new time zone boundary. As confusing as things used to be, they say it is even more confusing now. And one survey indicated that a majority of Hoosiers are not clear about what the time zone ruling really means.

So, naturally, the minority party will milk the confusion for all its worth.

But once everyone has had a chance to spring forward and fall back at least once, they’ll realize it isn’t all that bad. And if they have relatives out of state, they’ll also realize how much easier it is to make plans now that they don’t have to worry about whether their clocks are synchronized with each other.

No matter where the time zone boundary was drawn, somebody would be inconvenienced. The newly-drawn boundary is probably the best compromise for a situation in which there was no way to please everybody.

And as for the lawmakers in the state capitol, they should move on to more pressing matters and let time expire on the time zone debate.

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