AUGUSTA, Maine — Some Maine lawmakers are aiming to make the winter sun set later in the Pine Tree State.
A measure under consideration by the Committee on State and Local Government would begin the process of shifting Maine into a new time zone that would put it an hour ahead of the other eastern states.
Sponsors say the move, which would land Maine into a time zone shared by Nova Scotia and Puerto Rico, would provide increased economic opportunities and less energy consumption in addition to offering more daylight in the afternoon and evening.
In effect, it would be like adopting daylight saving time year-round — putting the clock forward an hour permanently — instead of doing it only from spring until fall.
As it is, the sun sets in Maine well ahead of the rest of the East Coast, as much as a half-hour ahead of even such relatively close cities as Boston. At the height of winter, sunset occurs before 4 p.m. in parts of the state.
If lawmakers decide to move ahead, they plan to ask Mainers to decide at the polling booth whether to pursue the change.
The federal Uniform Time Act, created to ease transportation scheduling, allows states to decide for themselves whether to participate in daylight saving time. If they want to shift to a different zone, though, they need approval from either Congress or the U.S. Department of Transportation.
It’s not the first time the idea has come up in Augusta. In 2005, the committee unanimously endorsed the concept to switch Maine into the Atlantic Standard Time Zone, but it didn’t get any further.
Massachusetts is flirting with the concept now. It created a legislative commission last year to study the idea that is supposed to finish its work by July. It has also been debated in Rhode Island.
Sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, the Maine bill has nine co-sponsors, among them Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn.
The legislative panel plans a hearing on the measure at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1, in Room 214 of the Cross Building next to the State House.