Maine House votes to join Atlantic time zone, if New Hampshire and Massachusetts do the same

Rep. Donna Bailey wants Mainers to have an hour more of daylight on winter afternoons by getting rid of the twice-yearly time change and having Maine join the Atlantic Standard Time Zone year-round.

Her bill to do so passed the House by an 85-59 vote Thursday, but it still faces a Senate vote and the change would also have to be adopted in Massachusetts and New Hampshire to become law in Maine.

“Twice a year we change the clocks and I wondered, ‘Why do we keep doing this, and nobody ever had a good answer,’ ” said Bailey, a Saco Democrat.

If the bill does become law, Maine clocks would effectively be set to daylight saving time all year, and there would be no more “fall back” or “spring forward” time changes in November and March. Nova Scotia and portions of Canada are on Atlantic Standard Time, although they are on their own version of daylight saving time for eight months a year.

Currently, Maine, 16 other states and the District of Columbia are on Eastern Standard Time from early November to mid-March, and on Eastern Daylight Time the rest of the year. Because Maine is the nation’s easternmost state, the sun sets by 4 p.m. or earlier on the shortest winter days, when sunrise and sunset are about nine hours apart.

Being better aligned with sunrise and sunset is beneficial to health, bill proponents say, and studies show there’s more workplace and vehicular accidents, and heart attacks when the time changes.

“With all the negative consequences of changing our clocks, and the positives of staying on (daylight saving time) year round, one has to ask why do we keep doing it?” Bailey said during testimony before the State and Local Government Committee on Feb. 15.

Rep. Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, a co-sponsor of the bill, testified that being on Atlantic time would be a net benefit.

“The motivation for this initiative is more than just the annoyance some may have with the changing of their clocks,” she said. “It also is to address health benefits that an extra hour of usable daylight can provide. For many, this twice-yearly disruption causes anxiety compounded by disruption to one’s natural circadian rhythm. Reverting to Eastern Standard Time during the winter when we already have a lack of daylight hours also adds to the symptoms of those that suffer from seasonal affective disorder.”

GROWING REGIONAL SUPPORT

The New Hampshire House of Representatives has also approved switching that state to Atlantic time, while a Massachusetts commission is studying the issue. Rhode Island also has a bill pending.

A 2014 Boston Globe column by health care advocate Tom Emswiler of Quincy, Massachusetts, went viral, and many media outlets picked up on the issue. Emswiler said he has ridden momentum from the column to advocate for a commission to study the issue. Last year, the Massachusetts Legislature established a time zone commission, which includes Emswiler and seven others.

Emswiler said moving from the Washington,…

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