INDIANAPOLIS – While it isn't as pressing as other election-year topics like jobs, schools and budget deficits, the perennial question of whether all of Indiana should observe daylight-saving time (search) has gubernatorial candidates trying to devise a solution for what has been a complex clock-setting situation in the state.
For more than three decades, people in some parts of Indiana set their clocks ahead one hour during daylight-saving time, but most do not. It is an almost-comical part of Hoosier lore, debated each year in the Legislature, in offices, in bars and on talk radio.
Some say the existing system hurts the state's image and stunts commerce. Others, such as former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg (search), scoff at such claims.
"It's still 24 hours," said Gregg, who dealt with the issue often in his 16 years in office until he retired in 2002. "If you want more daylight, get up earlier."
It's not just whether all of Indiana should be on daylight time. Should it be on New York time or Chicago time?
The candidates for governor have touched on the issue, with some waffling.
Former White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels (search), considered the leading Republican candidate, favors statewide observance of daylight-saving time, with "as much of the state as possible" in the Central time zone.
Democratic Gov. Joe Kernan (search) backs daylight-saving time, but he has not specified a time zone. However, Lt. Gov. Kathy Davis (search) — his running mate — says Central time is probably the best fit.
Republican Eric Miller wants to put the question to a vote of the people, even though the state constitution does not include a mechanism for such ballot initiatives.
Indiana is among three states that do not observe daylight-saving time — at least not completely. The others are Arizona and Hawaii.
To eliminate a confusing time mix, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966 mandating observance of daylight time. For most Americans, that means setting clocks an hour ahead before they go to bed on the first Sunday in April. Daylight-saving time begins at 2 a.m. that Sunday and ends at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday in October.
Proponents claim that the extra hour of evening sunshine helps to reduce energy consumption and crime.
The act allowed states to opt out of daylight time. Hawaii — where day lengths do not vary much because of its tropical location — opted out in 1967.
Arizona tried daylight time for a year, but state Sen. Jack Brown said lawmakers were buried in constituent complaints: Folks didn't want to wait until 9:30 p.m. for the drive-in movie to start; they didn't like tucking their children into bed with the sun still shining or getting them on the school bus in the dark. And few wanted to make those scorching summer days any longer than they already were.
Others said it just wasn't natural. "There was one lady who said her chickens stopped laying eggs," Brown said.
Only the Navajo Indian reservation in the northeastern corner of Arizona observes daylight time, and that's because it extends into the participating states of New Mexico and Utah.
The issue is more complicated in Indiana, where daylight-saving time causes year-round confusion.
Of Indiana's 92 counties, five in the northwest corner near Chicago and five in the southwest corner in the Evansville area are in the Central time zone and observe daylight time. They are always on Chicago time.
The remaining 82 counties are in the Eastern time zone. Five in southeastern Indiana — three by Louisville, Ky. and two by Cincinnati — observe daylight time to stay in sync with their big-city neighbors, which will be on EDT.
The rest of the 77 counties stay on Eastern Standard Time all year. So, when daylight-saving time is in effect, it is noon EDT in New York, but it is an hour earlier — 11 a.m. EST — in those 77 counties, including the state capital of Indianapolis. The clocks in Chicago will read the same, but it will be 11 a.m. CDT.
In October when daylight-saving time ends, the 77 counties will be back on New York time and one hour ahead of Chicago.
Many lawmakers say their constituents are evenly divided.
Dodging the issue politically can be an art. Republican Rex Early pulled this one off during a 1996 gubernatorial primary debate:
"Some of my friends are for putting all of Indiana on daylight-saving time. Some are against it. And I always try to support my friends."