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Bill would put Alaska into the Pacific time zone and end daylight savings

JUNEAU — Alaska lawmakers are considering a bill that would literally change time.

The House State Affairs Committee approved a measure Thursday that would place Alaska into the Pacific Time Zone and remove the state from daylight saving time.

The bill would shift all of Alaska to one time zone — it currently has two — bringing it into alignment with the West Coast states. That would trigger the exemption from daylight saving time.

Proponents of the measure, including sponsor Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River, say that it doesn't make much sense for Alaska to change its clock by an hour twice a year because of how much daylight already varies across the vast state.

But while MacKinnon's bill made it out of the Senate last year, it stalled in the House and has drawn heavy criticism from opponents, such as the Alaska Chamber of Commerce. The group says it would hurt Alaska businesses by putting the state further out of sync with the rest of the nation.

Committee members said tying the elimination of daylight saving time with a switch to one standard time for the state should allay some of those concerns.

"I don't think there's anybody that can't see that there's commercial benefit to us to match our time with the West Coast," said Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla.

Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, said he is concerned about the impact of putting the entire state on one time zone.

While most of the state is on Alaska Time, some Southeast towns unofficially use Pacific Time and parts of the Aleutian Islands are on Hawaii-Aleutian Time. MacKinnon aide Erin Shine said that with the measure's change, some western and northern Alaska communities could lose up to four hours of sun time.

While rural communities have yet to weigh in on the consequences of the bill's new language changing the whole state to one time zone, Shine said part of the federal process would include interviews in the affected communities.

The measure now goes to House Finance. If it gets approval there, the next stop would be the full House.

Alaska isn't the only state considering the switch. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 13 states are considering 22 bills and resolutions on daylight saving time this year.

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