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Permanent daylight time clears Senate

SANTA FE – A bill seeking to make the twice-a-year clock-changing ritual a thing of the past in New Mexico was approved Tuesday in the state Senate, but time might not be on its side with just four days left in the 60-day legislative session.

The Senate voted 28-10 in favor of the measure, which could lead to New Mexico staying on daylight saving time year round.

“We have fun with the issue, but at the end of they day it is very serious,” Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, the bill’s sponsor, told reporters after Tuesday’s vote. “It affects every single person in New Mexico.”

Pirtle, who pushed for similar legislation in 2013, said he has received more than 200 emails on the subject this year, with most people in favor of the concept.

He cited health concerns as the primary driver behind the bill, saying the twice-per-year practice of “springing forward” and “falling back” can be particularly hard on people with sleep disorders.

The legislation, Senate Bill 377, prompted a largely jovial debate Tuesday on the Senate floor, with some saying it had prompted more public feedback than any other measure at the Roundhouse.

“People aren’t too concerned about the budget or anything, but they sure are concerned about keeping daylight saving time,” said Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Española.

Earlier in the debate, Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, described the measure as a “working man’s bill,” adding it would lead to later sunsets year-round.

However, critics of the legislation said it could disrupt interstate commerce and have other possible unforeseen consequences.

Under federal law, states are allowed to opt out of daylight saving time. Hawaii and most of Arizona don’t observe daylight saving time, though the Navajo Nation within Arizona does change its clocks.

If approved, the legislation would require Gov. Susana Martinez to formally apply to the U.S. Department of Transportation for the change in timekeeping practices. It would likely take the federal government at least six months to hold hearings and make a ruling on the application, Pirtle said.

A Martinez spokesman said this month that the Republican governor had not taken a position on the bill.

Daylight saving time was first established in the United States in 1918 as a wartime measure to conserve electricity by providing an extra hour of daylight in the evenings.

Time-change bills have been proposed this year in at least 11 other states, including Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma. Some of those measures would make daylight saving time permanent, while others would opt out of daylight saving time.

At the Roundhouse, the Senate-bill approved now advances to the House. If endorsed by the House, it would go on to the governor for final consideration.

Pirtle, who described the push to do away with time changes as a “grass-roots effort,” said New Mexico would be a timekeeping trailblazer if it were to enact the proposal.

“We want to be the first state in quite a while to stop this outdated practice,” Pirtle said. “I think people are fed up with changing their clocks.”

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