Back in time

Maine lawmakers are considering a bill, LD 71, that would put Maine into the same time zone as Nova Scotia and Puerto Rico during the five winter months. If adopted by the Legislature, the proposal would be put out for a statewide vote.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Dillingham (R-Oxford) and has nine co-sponsors.

First, the idea is nothing new. Similar bills were introduced in the Maine legislature and failed to gain traction in 2005 and again in 2008. The only thing that appears to have changed since then is a loss of institutional memory in Augusta about why it remains a bad idea.

Proponents claim the shift will leave more light later in the day for the evening commute at a time of year when it seems to be pitch black by 4 p.m. Having the busiest hours of the day fall later on the clock would save energy, they argue.

Opponents continue to field strong arguments. With Maine already tagged in surveys as one of the most difficult states in the country in which to do business, having firms open an hour before people are ready to do business in the rest of the Eastern Time Zone would seem to be a waste. Closing up shop an hour before the rest of the region would only exacerbate that dynamic. Any step that makes Maine appear more backwards or unconnected to the traditional capitals of commerce and economic activity in this country should not be taken without careful consideration.

The stroke of a legislative pen would not add more sunlight to the day. The need for energy to fight back the darkness isn’t going to magically disappear because clocks are changed. If anything, shifting the daylight hours later in the afternoon would result in it being darker even longer in the morning, which could risk the safety of kids heading off to school.

Jumping the time zone around would unnecessarily complicate public transportation schedules, confuse commuters and travelers and increase costs of overhead. Folks living along the border with New Hampshire would find themselves in constant flux.

The proposed time change has Maine’s broadcasting industry extremely concerned. Popular programs and network news shows would be out of sync with the rest of the eastern portion of the U.S., creating confusion.

Recently, time zone change proposals also have surfaced in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, raising the possibility of even greater confusion. If some states change and others don’t, your watch could need two to three time changes on a drive from Portland to New York City.

Putting Maine in the Atlantic time zone could spring us forward an hour in time, but set us back years economically and socially.

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