Feds say counties must make case for time zone changes
"The governor has turned his back on another campaign proposal. You have 92 counties, and instead of going one direction, we are going 92 different directions." State Rep. Dave Crooks, D-Washington
"The bottom line is, what will help our businesses?" Charlie Brown, Clay County Commissioner
"I don't think I have enough information to comment on that. That's news to me." Daryl Andrews, Clay County Commissioner
By MIKE SMITH
AP Political Writer
The way state Rep. Dave Crooks sees it, the federal government is letting Gov. Mitch Daniels skate on whether Indiana should be in the Eastern or Central time zone.
Daniels during his campaign said it made sense that as much of Indiana as possible should be in the Central zone. But he backed off that preference after taking office.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Transportation said counties must make their own cases for switching time zones before it will consider hearings on boundary changes. That, Crooks says, leaves Daniels conveniently away from the fray and comfortably on the sidelines.
"The governor has turned his back on another campaign proposal," said Crooks, D-Washington. "You have 92 counties, and instead of going one direction, we are going 92 different directions."
Residents of Clay and some other western counties have expressed an interest in being on Central Standard Time when Daylight Saving Time begins in Indiana next spring.
Clay County Commissioner Charlie Brown said the question hasn't come up in his discussion with commissioners David Parr and Daryl Andrews.
"The bottom line is, what will help our businesses?" Brown said. "Would we hinder them by changing time zones? I don't want to do anything to hamper them."
Brown is concerned that any change would put Clay County on a different time than counties in the central and eastern part of the state.
"When I worked in Indianapolis, they were on a different time than we were" which complicated his schedule, Brown said. "Where will the dividing line be (if some counties are on Eastern and some are on Central time)? U.S. 231?"
The possibility also caught Andrews by surprise.
"I don't think I have enough information to comment on that," Andrews said in a telephone message to The Brazil Times. "That's news to me."
However, he also found the possibility interesting that Vigo and Clay counties could end up in different time zones.
A call to David Parr was not returned by press time.
Clay County is now in the Eastern Time Zone and does not observe daylight saving time. By act of the Indiana General Assembly, the state is scheduled to go on daylight saving time April 2, 2006.
Counties must notify federal agency, if they desire to switch time zones
The transportation department told Daniels that if counties want to switch time zones, they must notify the agency and provide specific information justifying a change.
An initial request from Daniels to hold hearings had been more open-ended, and one sent in June recommended that hearings be held in eight to 10 of the state's largest cities.
"After reviewing the requested and supporting data, we will determine which requests, if any, justify the issue of an NPRM (notice of proposed rulemaking)," said the letter from the federal agency.
"Once justified, we will issue the NPRM, which will solicit public comment and will schedule public hearings," the letter from Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said. "After the close of the comment period, we will review all communications and take appropriate final action."
In the past, the specific information sought from counties included why a change would help commerce, where businesses get supplies and where TV and radio signals originate.
The agency has said it was unprecedented for a state, county or city to request a change without stating a preference. The only suggestion in an Indiana law enacted earlier this year requested no changes for five counties each in northwestern and southwestern Indiana on Central time and five in southeastern Indiana in the Eastern zone that observe daylight-saving time.
The state's 77 other counties in the Eastern zone do not observe daylight-time, but will beginning in April as part of the time change law Daniels sought and received in the last legislative session.
Daniels campaigned on statewide daylight-saving time, saying it would eliminate confusion and boost commerce.
Daniels issued a statement thanking Mineta for helping the process of time zones move forward.
"We wanted an open and bottom-up process, and that is what we will have," Daniels said.
But some opponents of Eastern Daylight Time say the hearings could ignite time wars on several fronts.
House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, said the hearings could plunge the state into chaos. "Now he (Daniels) clearly has a political problem," Bauer said.
Rep. Dale Grubb, D-Covington, said the hearings will leave factions of Hoosiers unsatisfied. Many will want Eastern Daylight Time, others, Central Daylight Time. Still others will want Eastern Standard Time.
"People will be upset no matter what you do," he said.