-Brazil, Terre Haute and Indianapolis will remain on Eastern time
INDIANAPOLIS -- The federal government has decided that eight counties in Indiana will soon join 10 others that have been in the Central time zone for years.
The U.S. Department of Transportation also ruled Wednesday that nine other counties that wanted a switch from Eastern to Central time will stay put.
Those moves came as some legislators hope a new Indiana law mandating statewide observance of daylight-saving time and the time-zone boundaries ruling will put a decades-long debate to rest.
"It's my belief that once people settle down and we start learning the new time system, that we'll all be very comfortable with this in a year or so," said House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.
But some lawmakers want a statewide vote on whether the federal government should be asked to move all or most of the state to Central time.
"The only way most people in Indiana will feel that they haven't been force fed this by the federal government and the governor is to have a referendum so they can express their views," said House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend.
The federal agency said Starke and Pulaski counties in northwestern Indiana and Daviess, Dubois, Knox, Martin, Perry and Pike counties in southwestern Indiana would switch to the Central zone on April 2, when Indiana and 47 other states begin observing daylight-saving time.
It denied requests from Carroll, Cass, Fulton, Lawrence, Marshall, St. Joseph, Sullivan, Vermillion and White counties to move to Central time.
The agency in October proposed that five counties be switched, including St. Joseph County. Wednesday's ruling dropped St. Joseph County, while adding Pulaski, Daviess, Dubois and Martin counties.
The ruling said it changed its initial recommendation on St. Joseph County because some officials there wanted Central zone but also wanted in to be in sync with nearby Elkhart, Kosciusko and Marshall counties and Michigan communities that all observe Eastern time.
"Some strongly support the change; others vehemently opposed it," the ruling said.
It said Pulaski County in the north and Daviess, Dubois and Martin counties in the southwest submitted subsequent information which helped them make the final list.
The transportation agency says it bases its decisions on whether changes will benefit commerce. It looks at factors such as transportation, commuter patterns and where areas get their radio and television signals.
Gov. Mitch Daniels said repeatedly during his 2004 campaign that it made best sense for most of Indiana to be on Central time but backed off that stance after being elected, saying it should be a local decision.
Daniels, however, in November recommended to federal officials that St. Joseph County remain on Eastern time, saying that it and Elkhart County formed one economic, cultural and social region and should not be split.
The federal ruling said that government officials were free to petition for future changes to time boundaries.
Daniels had recommended that Daviess, Dubois and Martin counties be allowed to join Knox, Perry and Pike counties in a switch to Central, saying the six in southwestern Indiana wanted to stick together as an economic region on the same clock as nearby Evansville. He did not back time-zone switches sought by nearby Lawrence and Sullivan counties.
The time-zone dispute stemmed from an Indiana law enacted last year that will mandate statewide observance of daylight-saving time beginning in April.
Legislative efforts to force 77 of Indiana's 92 counties that did not observe daylight time had failed for more than three decades, largely because it has been a highly emotional and divisive issue among residents.
Daniels lobbied extensively for the bill, saying it would eliminate confusion and boost commerce. It gained final legislative passage by a single vote in the House.
Daniels issued a statement following the federal ruling saying a "perfect outcome is not possible," but the state will now have a higher percentage of residents on the same time year round. Eighteen counties will now be on Central time, instead of the previous 10, but all counties will observe daylight time.
"This effort took more time and energy than anyone ever intended, and I share the feelings of those whose patience was tried along the way," he said.
Although bills have been filed on time referendums this session, their chances of going anywhere seem slim to none. Senate President Pro Tem Robert Garton, R-Columbus, has questioned their constitutionality, and Bosma, the House speaker, said lawmakers should put the entire time issue behind them.
Associated Press Writer Deanna Martin contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Time zone ruling: http://dmses.dot.gov/docimages/pdf95/382...