Alaska's time zone could  change according to Senate Bill 6, which is moving through the Legislature. Image/worldatlas.com

Alaska’s time zone could change according to Senate Bill 6, which is moving through the Legislature. Image/worldatlas.com

The Alaska Legislature is considering repealing daylight savings time in Alaska through Senate Bill 6. The idea has support from other parts of the state but here in Southeast there has been some opposition.
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Anna MacKinnon of Eagle River cites adverse effects on health, sleep cycles, work productivity, and safety associated with changing the clocks halfway through the year. The bill proposes ending the practice January 1, 2017.

In Senate Finance Committee hearing March 3 several people spoke against the bill saying it was bad for commerce. They said it would increase Alaska’s time difference with other parts of the country, up to two hours difference for the Northwest and up to five hours from the East Coast.

Pilots said it would give them less flying time in the summer months.

Craig Dahl spoke on behalf of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce, which represents 400 businesses. He says nearly three-quarters of them are opposed to eliminating daylight savings time. Besides having more of a time difference with other states, he says they didn’t like losing an hour of light in the summer evenings.

“Flight operations, marine tourism, anything that used up the daylight at the wrong end of the day and I don’t think…everybody’s had the same comment in the sense this is the loss of our recreation time and business time in Alaska,” Dahl said. “It’s already a precious short summer and we didn’t feel that this was in anybody’s best interest.”

Paula Rak of Wrangell said she was opposed to eliminating daylight savings in Alaska for the same two reasons: losing an hour of daylight in the evenings and being further separated from the Lower 48.

“I think a better thing to do would be to petition the federal government to leave the entire country on daylight savings time all year round,” Rake said.

While the bill would keep Alaska from switching clocks bi-annually there is a provision that would allow parts of the state to change time zones if the Federal Department of Transportation approved it. So, for example Southeast Alaska could move to the same time zone as the Northwest. That would create less of a time difference with the Lower 48…just a three hour time difference with the East Coast for half of the year.

Most people testifying just learned of the provision and said they couldn’t speak to it. However, some spoke in favor of it if the bill passed such as Tom Laurent of Petersburg.

“If the bill goes through I would like to see Alaska split back into two or three time zones,” Laurent said. “Other states are in more than one time zone and it will allow the circadian rhythms of people to adjust to the correct daylight or sunset and daylight times.”

David Berg of Petersburg spoke on behalf of Viking Travel and Alaska Ferry Vacations-dot-com and opposed changing anything—daylight savings time or time zones.

“I think that visitors all over Alaska will be confused by the difference in time zones that we have,” Berg said. “Especially if we have…if we’re on a different time zone at some portions of the year than other parts of the country.”

Berg suggested the issue be put in front of voters so all Alaskans could decide.

Senate Bill 6 passed the full Senate this afternoon. It next goes to the House for consideration.

(Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to remove a reference for a petition to the U.S. Department of Transportation for the daylight saving change. That petition would only be necessary for the change in time zones. A reference to Arizona being the only state not to use daylight savings has also been removed. Hawaii, along with Arizona, do not use daylight saving.)