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Clock stops on Pirtle daylight saving time bill

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House Committee votes 7-3 to table the measure

The ongoing effort by state Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, to keep New Mexico on daylight saving time year-round has gone dark.

Members of the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development Monday approved a motion to table Senate Bill 102 (SB 102).

With less than a week remaining in the session, the action all but ensures the bill will not reach the floor of the state House before the end of the current legislative session.

In a statement Monday after the committee vote, Pirtle accused the Democratic majority on the committee of voting to reject his bill for partisan reasons.

“This bill passed out of the Senate with bipartisan support. Instead of considering the merits of giving families an extra hour of daylight at the end of the day, House Democrats retreated into their partisan corner and tabled this bill with no explanation,” he said.

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State Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences, who sits on the committee, also voted for the tabling motion. Voting against the tabling motion were the three remaining Republicans on the committee: Jane E. Powdrell-Culbert of Corrales and Los Lunas Reps. Alonzo Baldonado and Kelly Fajardo.

Like in Alaska and 47 of the 48 contiguous U.S. states, New Mexicans observe daylight saving time, turning clocks ahead one hour in March resulting in an additional hour of daylight. In November, residents switch clocks back an hour and revert to standard time.

Arizona and Hawaii, as well as the U.S. territories of Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands remain on standard time year-round.

Under SB 102, the twice-a-year clock switches in New Mexico would cease once Congress passes legislation allowing a state to exempt itself from standard time. Such legislation at the national level has already been introduced in Congress by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Pirtle said 15 states have passed legislation similar to SB 102.

Initially conceived as a way to conserve energy, he said, the twice-a-year change in times is not only antiquated and inconvenient, but the cause of an increase in car accidents, as well as heart attacks and worsening mental health in the days and weeks after the shift in time is made.

“It’s amazing how simple changing one hour can really affect our biological clock, but we are creatures of habit and it is unnecessary,” Pirtle said.

Proponents of the bill pointed out that placing the state on daylight saving time throughout the year would provide people with more opportunities for outdoor recreation and be a boon to New Mexico’s economy.

“It simply makes sense that darker mornings and longer, lighter evenings is the best way to maximize worker productivity across the economy and provide the greatest opportunity for our residents to have available time for gatherings, shopping and various forms of leisure,” Terri Cole, president of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, said.

Opponents of the legislation though worry that staying on daylight saving time could promote uncertainty and place New Mexico’s border crossing at Santa Teresa on a different time than in El Paso, Texas.

Such a move, they said, could mean lost opportunities in cross-border trade and economic development, specifically to the Port of Santa Teresa, because there would be a difference in time of four hours out of the year in the hours of operation of the Santa Teresa Port of Entry and the port of entry in El Paso.

“We have business all over the world here that could be at a serious disadvantage to firms in El Paso that will continue to share the same time zone with the state of Chihuahua (in Mexico),” Jerry Pacheco, president of the Border Industrial Association, said.

Others allege moving to year-round daylight saving time could result in a sharp drop in New Mexico exports, disrupt company supply chains and make it more costly for some companies to do business within the state.

State Rep. Doreen Gallegos, D-Las Cruces, said the issue evokes a lot of emotion where she is from, because of its possible effect on cross-border trade and the fact so many people commute back and forth between southern New Mexico and El Paso.

“Every time this bill comes up, I’m from Las Cruces, and my area goes berserk. I get hundreds of emails,” she said.

Pirtle though said he believes opponents of the bill are overreacting, and reiterated that New Mexico’s change to daylight saving time year-round would be contingent upon legislation to do away with the clock-switching.

“This is actually a solution that says we need to fix this nationally so that all time zones change at the same time so that when we move to daylight saving time permanently, El Paso does too,” he said. Pirtle added he believes that Mexico would follow suit.

“I hate to say, Mr. Chair and representative, that this does nothing, but essentially all this does is tell Congress, pass legislation to fix the time change on a national scale and that New Mexico is supportive of that,” Pirtle said.

State Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, said he thinks sending that message through a memorial accompanied by a strongly worded letter to members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation would be a better route.

The chairman of the committee, state Rep. Antonio Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said before the vote that between sessions, he would seek to do an economic analysis examining how staying on daylight saving time would impact the state economically.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

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