JUNEAU — A state Senate committee has advanced a bill that would exempt Alaska from daylight saving time, a measure that its sponsor said would be good for the health of state residents.
The bill, from Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River, would exempt Alaska from the annual time change beginning in 2017. That means Alaska would be five hours behind the East Coast, instead of four hours behind, from about March to November.
The delay in implementation is meant to give certain industries, like the cruise industry, time to prepare for the change.
The bill moved from the Senate State Affairs Committee on Tuesday.
MacKinnon told the committee that there are health effects associated with changing the clocks each spring and fall, and she wants to help Alaskans avoid those problems. Those include increased rates of heart attacks, suicide and traffic accidents in the spring, she said.
The bill would also help address productivity and school attendance issues that occur after the time change, MacKinnon said.
Eagle River resident Lynn Willis told the committee via teleconference that he supported the change, and it could improve safety for some jobs because it would mean more morning light.
There were concerns about how the change could affect businesses, however.
Mike Stedman, an owner of Wings Airways and Alaska Seaplanes, said that losing an hour of daylight each evening in the summer could reduce the number of floatplane flights his company operates because those planes can’t land in the dark.
Stedman estimated that several components of the business would take about a 20 percent hit if flights were reduced.
MacKinnon also said that those in the financial industry, including traders for the Alaska Permanent Fund, would have to be at work an hour earlier for much of the year to stay in touch with the markets.
Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, who introduced a similar bill, said he had spoken to MacKinnon and supported moving hers forward. His constituents supported not following daylight saving time, he said.
Under the Uniform Time Act, the state has the authority to exempt itself from daylight saving time, but not to change time zones entirely.
MacKinnon said her preference would be to move Alaska time forward an hour so that the state was essentially always on daylight saving time. But such a move would be a change in time zone and requires a two-step process that includes federal approval.
She said a broader conversation about Alaska’s time zones is needed, however. Because of the state’s size, many communities are several hours off from the standard noontime sun.
Before instituting its current time zones, Alaska had five time zones, she said.