WASHINGTON — The House, over arguments that the safety of rural schoolchildren was being sacrificed for the convenience of city-dwellers, voted today to extend daylight-saving time an extra month as early as 1986.
The proposal, sent to the Senate on a 240-157 vote in the final days of the 1985 daylight-saving time period, would have people set their clocks ahead an hour on the first Sunday in April and turn them back on the first Sunday in November.
Under the current schedule mandated by Congress in 1966, clocks are pushed ahead an hour on the last Sunday in April and restored to standard time on the final Sunday of October.
The legislation would continue to allow states to exempt all or parts of themselves from daylight-saving time. Currently, all of Arizona and Hawaii and portions of Indiana remain on standard time all year.
The proposed seven months of daylight-saving time is a compromise of an eight-month extension bill that has been kicking around Congress for a decade and has been approved by one chamber or the other but never both in the same session.
In order for the seven-month plan to take effect in 1986, the legislation would have to clear Congress and be signed by President Reagan by the end of this year.
Trimming the plan from eight months to seven brought support from some rural lawmakers who were strenuously opposed in the past because it would increase the number of days each year that farmers and children would have to cope with dark mornings. But the compromise did not win over all of them.
"No matter how much you tinker with God's time, there are serious problems," said Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) "There are hardships for farmers . . . . While you in the city are sleeping away the morning hours, they are up doing their chores."
Rep. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said that if truth-in-labeling were required for legislation, the bill would be called "The Urban Convenience Act of 1985. Rural citizens will be put to some disadvantage in order that urban citizens will enjoy another hour of daylight."
Child Safety Issue
A former school superintendent, Rep. William Goodling (R-Pa.) said that proponents of longer daylight-saving time did not understand the ramifications involved.
"You're putting children along a highway without sidewalks when all that traffic is going to work," Goodling argued. "Let's think primarily about children in rural areas that have to be on that highway at 6:30 or 6:45."
The bill's floor manager, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said that even under expanded daylight-saving time, sunrises in April occur earlier than sunrises in the coldest months--December, January and February.
"The bill will not cause dark and cold mornings that would be unsafe or uncomfortable for children, farmers or others who work in the morning," Markey said.
He said that benefits from extended daylight-saving time were shown in 1974-75 when an Arab oil embargo caused the nation to use it year-round in an effort to conserve energy. The experiment ended after public opinion turned against 12 months of extra daylight.
Citing federal studies, Markey said the benefits included saving 100,000 barrels of oil a day in April; a drop in street crime in the District of Columbia; and a .7% decrease in traffic fatalities in March and April.
He also said a Chamber of Commerce poll this year showed respondents favoring a longer daylight-saving time by better than 2 to 1.