|Year-round daylight-saving time moves past first stop|
|Written by Marianne Goodland, Legislative reporter|
Sleepy-eyed senators gave Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, something of a surprise last week: unanimous support for his efforts to put Colorado on daylight-saving time year-round.
On March 16, three days after “spring forward,” the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee sent Brophy’s Senate Bill 11-022 on its way to its next stop, the Senate Appropriations Committee, with a 6-0 vote.
Apparently, timing is everything. Brophy told the committee he deliberately waited until after the spring time change to have the bill heard in committee. “Were you tired Monday morning? Kids’ schedules upset? Isn’t it crazy we go through this ritual twice a year?” he asked the committee. Brophy said he doesn’t mind the fall time change but considers the spring change painful.
According to Brophy, the bill had its origins in a discussion on his Facebook page after the time change last fall. Forty-five comments later, he had the idea for the bill.
Daylight-saving time (DST), and moving the clocks around twice a year, is codified in federal law under the Uniform Time Act of 1966, although the concept of changing time according to the seasons dates back at least as far back as Benjamin Franklin. The Act doesn’t require states actually observe daylight-saving time, only that a uniform standard be applied. A state can be exempted from observing DST if it is in a single time zone; a state with more than one time zone also can be exempted if the exemption applies to the entire state.
The Act has been amended several times, including a 2005 change that extended DST by three weeks in the spring and one week in the fall, under the guise of saving energy.
The federal law doesn’t allow states to stay on DST year-round, but Brophy said there are no penalties for states that choose to do so. And he said at least five other states are considering changes similar to the one he proposes.
Arizona stays on standard time year-round, Brophy told the committee, and there would be some changes needed to accommodate Colorado should the state go onto DST year-round, such as adjustments in airline schedules.
“We’re talking about stopping the charade of changing the clocks and stopping that painful experience we have every spring,” he said.
The fiscal analysis for SB 22 estimated a state cost of just over $9,000 to the Department of Revenue to pay for computer coding for clock and time-stamp operations that deal with time-sensitive matters, such as accident reports or tax documents.
But any “potential positive or negative societal impacts such as impacts on energy consumption, crime, tourism, general impacts to the health of citizens, carbon emissions, agricultural production or traffic incidents have not been measured and are beyond the scope of analysis of this fiscal note,” the analysis said.
Legislative efforts to keep Colorado on one time year-round have never made it very far; earlier this session, a bill from Rep. Ed Vigil, D-Alamosa, to keep Colorado on standard time year-round failed in a House committee.
No one testified on SB 22 in Wednesday’s hearing, and the committee, to Brophy’s apparent surprise, passed it 6-0.
While Brophy was making history in Senate Ag, Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, spent the same day fighting off changes to a Joint Budget Committee bill that would extend a 2.5 percent contribution to the Public Employees’ Retirement Association by state employees.
SB 76 is sponsored by the JBC that includes Becker. It attempts to extend for another year an extra 2.5 percent contribution made by state employees to PERA. The extra contribution is intended to temporarily reduce the state’s contribution to PERA and was started last year as a way to help the state budget. SB 76 would save the state $61.6 million in the 2011-12 budget with a cost of $1.85 million, primarily in lost tax revenues.
Gov. John Hickenlooper has proposed an additional two percent cut to state employee salaries as part of his budget proposal for 2011-12, a move that has angered state employees but which has found favor among Republicans at the state Capitol.
And that’s the battle Becker found himself in at the House Finance Committee hearing on March 16.
State employees testified that the continued cuts to their pay through the PERA contributions, coupled with three years without raises and higher health insurance costs, has meant some state employees at the lower end of the pay scale now qualify for food stamps.
Amendments to the bill focused on increasing the amount and number of employees who are covering the state contribution, and came from committee Chair Rep. Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland. His first amendment to SB 76 would incorporate the governor’s suggestion, a move opposed by Becker and the committee’s Democrats, who said the amendment attempted to circumvent the JBC’s process and authority.
The amendment failed when one Republican, Rep. Keith Swerdfeger of Canon City, voted with the Democrats and against it. (Becker is not a member of the committee.) A second amendment granted school districts and local governments the option to tack that contribution onto their employees, and that passed with Becker’s lukewarm opposition. Becker said he needed to stand with the JBC to oppose it, but believed it would help schools save teaching jobs.
The bill passed on an 8-5 vote, with one Democrat voting with the Republicans. SB 76 sailed through its Senate committees and the Senate floor without a single “no” vote from either side, and the amendment on school contributions is now likely to set up a floor fight in the House and opposition from Senate Democrats when it comes back to the Senate.
Fellow JBC member Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, said that the JBC had not yet begun looking at the governor’s request on PERA, and that the three amendments came as a surprise.
Gerou explained that the increased PERA contribution could come through a “comeback” from the governor’s office, which is when the JBC finishes most of its figure setting for the budget and allows the governor or other state agencies to revise their budget requests.
“This needs to be decided by the JBC,” Becker said, although he said he understood the reasoning behind the amendments. He also said he supported including schools in the plan, because it would save school districts badly-needed funds at a time when the governor is proposing a $375 million hit to school funding. This “would help schools control costs,” Becker said Thursday, and “any help we can give them, we should.” Becker pointed out that the increased contribution by employees could actually save teacher jobs by reducing the budget cuts the districts will have to take. Conversely, keeping school districts out of the contribution plan could mean more layoffs and fewer people paying into PERA, which would hurt the pension plan’s bottom line, he said.
March 16 also was Colorado Ag Day, and in a proclamation, Gov. John Hickenlooper lauded the state’s farmers and ranchers who “play a vital role in providing wholesome food to consumers” and the contributions of agriculture to the state’s economy.
The day began with passage of a resolution, House Joint Resolution 11-1011, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, chairs of the House and Senate agriculture committees.
Following a noontime press conference, legislators and staff were treated to a lunch provided by the Colorado Ag Council, and the council also facilitated the donation of $65,000 in cash and food contributions to area food banks.