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Bill seeks referendum that could dump daylight saving time in Georgia

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Georgians could soon vote on whether they want to keep springing forward and falling back under legislation in the Georgia House.

State Rep. Wes Cantrell, R-Woodstock, has proposed that the state hold a nonbinding referendum asking residents whether they'd like to do away with daylight saving time. A nonbinding referendum is a ballot question used to inform the state government about potential future action. Such a referendum has only been used once, in 2003, when voters were asked to choose a new design for the state flag.

Under House Bill 709, voters' options in the referendum would be to keep the annual time change, switch to year-round standard time (marked by winding clocks back an hour in late fall) or to switch to year-round daylight saving time (marked by moving clocks ahead an hour in early spring).

Every time Georgians have to switch their clocks, Cantrell says he gets a “large number” of phone calls and emails from constituents complaining about the practice.

“By and large, people cannot stand the time change,” Cantrell said.

In a Monday meeting of the House State Planning and Community Affairs Committee, Cantrell cited research that has found an increase in car accidents corresponding with daylight saving time changes. Passing HB 709 and setting the referendum for this year’s November election would help the state gauge whether there’s an appetite for stopping the twice-yearly time changes.

If the referendum were to come back with a clear preference for discarding the current system, Cantrell said he would bring a bill adopting the preferred option to the House next year, pending his own re-election. If voters were to choose standard time, Georgia would be able to make the move on its own. But if year-round daylight saving time was the preference, a switch would require approval from the U.S. Congress.

State Rep. Deborah Silcox, R-Sandy Springs, and state Rep. Michael Caldwell, R-Woodstock, both expressed concern about potential impacts on business. Having a time difference with out-of-state business partners for a few months out of the year could be at least inconvenient and at worst a hindrance, Silcox said.

“The fact that we’re on the same time as them is a huge advantage,” Silcox said.

A change could also affect smaller aspects of everyday life, such as baseball games in the summer, said Rep. Scot Turner, R-Woodstock, who coaches youth sports.

“Going to standard time would, in the summer, force kids to find a lit field in order to play,” Turner said.

The panel did not vote on the legislation Monday.

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