BY Tom Humphrey
NASHVILLE — When Tennesseans spring forward into daylight-saving time next month, they will never fall back into standard time again under legislation that has cleared its first step toward passage in the General Assembly.
“It will be great for the farmers. It will be great for the school kids,” said Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, sponsor of HB1909. “I’ve talked to many businesses and folks across the state about this, and I’ve not got one negative comment about this bill.”
As amended in the House State Government Subcommittee, the bill simply declares that Tennessee will drop out of the ritual of moving clocks forward an hour each year on the second Sunday in March, then back again on the first Sunday in November. The bill takes effect on July 1 and, since daylight-saving time will be in place on that date, the effect will be making daylight-saving time permanent, Todd said.
Todd said federal law allows states to make such moves as long as the state covers two time zones, as Tennessee does: the Eastern Time Zone in East Tennessee and the Central Time Zone in Middle and West Tennessee. Arizona, Hawaii and Indiana have successfully adopted a uniform time system with no changes by season, he said, and Tennessee should do the same.
The bill prompted both some joking and expressions of skepticism during the committee debate, but ultimately was approved with just two negative votes — one from Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville, and the other from Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar.
Haynes quipped during the discussion that Todd should instead just move Middle and West Tennessee into the Eastern Time Zone. Rep. Kent Williams of Elizabethton, the Legislature’s only Independent, asked Todd whether the bill would “add an extra hour of sunlight” to every day, then suggested “maybe we could amend this and be like Alaska so we have six months of daylight and six months of darkness.”
Shaw said he was not necessarily opposed to Todd’s “whang-dang-er” of an idea, but he would like more time to review the ramifications and gather information rather than risk “going home and have somebody look me in the eye at the grocery store and tell me how stupid I am.”
Shaw, the only Democrat on the panel, made a motion to delay a vote for two weeks. But no other member of the committee would second his motion, so it failed.
Haynes said afterward that his concerns center on Tennessee having a time difference with neighboring states and that having a potential negative impact on commerce but “I could be persuaded to go the other way.”
After the subcommittee vote on Wednesday, Haynes said he put up a Facebook posting and asked for comments on whether Tennessee to move to daylight-saving time permanently. The resulting comments ran about 70 percent for permanent daylight-saving time and 30 percent against, he said.
“It boils down to this: Do you like it lighter in the morning when you wake up or do you like it lighter in the evening?” he said.
The bill is scheduled for a vote this week in the full House State Government Committee, which Haynes chairs. The Senate companion bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Janice Bowling of Tullahoma, has not yet been scheduled for a vote.