NH Senate votes down state time zone to shift to Atlantic Standard Time
CONCORD — New Hampshire won’t be moving forward anytime soon, at least when it comes to time.
The state Senate voted 16-7 on Thursday against a bill that would move the state to the Atlantic Standard Time Zone if Massachusetts makes the same move.
New Hampshire and 16 other states and the District of Columbia are currently on Eastern Standard Time from early November through mid-March, and on Eastern Daylight Time for the rest of the year. The Canadian maritime provinces are on Atlantic time, which is an hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
The bill passed the state House of Representatives in a voice vote in February. Maine is also considering a move to the Atlantic Time Zone, if both Massachusetts and New Hampshire make the move. A Massachusetts commission is studying the issue. Rhode Island also has pending legislation on such a move.
Because the New England states are so far east, the sun sets early in the 4pm hour in parts of the region during the shortest winter days. Proponents of the move, which has been floated numerous times, say it would also eliminate the need for changing the clocks twice a year due to Daylight Saving Time.
Republican Sen. John Reagan of Deerfield argued that if the bill became law, it would “eliminate clock changing forever.”
But opponents said it would create havoc if parts of New England were in different time zones.
“You’d be driving from Massachusetts to Connecticut to Vermont in different time zones. You wouldn’t know when your appointment is. It would be a mess. Let’s just leave this alone,” argued Republican Sen. Bill Gannon of Sandown. “Boston and New York should be on the same time.”
And reading a poem that his 8-year old daughter Coleen helped him write, he concluded that “changing to Atlantic Standard Time would give kids a fright. Let us help our kids study by the light of day and keep Daylight Savings Time here to stay.”
Opponents have also argued that there are other drawbacks to shifting to the Atlantic Time Zone. Among them are late sunrises that during the winter would put the morning commute in the dark. They also brought up the possibility of an economic impact from breaking away from the states remaining in the Eastern Time Zone.
The Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee voted 3-2 to declare the bill inexpedient to legislate. After the full Senate vote to uphold the committee’s recommendation, Senate President Chuck Morse joked that “we’ll see that one again.”
Republican state Reps. Carol McGuire of Epsom and Keith Murphy of Bedford said they co-sponsored the original bill in the House after constituent requests.
Official times zones were set up as the result of an international conference held in 1884,. They were prompted by the global spread of railroads, which created a need for clocks to be in synch. The U.S. was divided into four time zones.
Daylight Saving Time was created in 1918, after its adoption as a fuel-saving measure during World War I. It was reestablished through federal law in 1966.
Even if the bill had become law, switching time zones would still require federal approval.