By Tom Baxter

Two issues being considered under the Golden Dome this year illustrate the tremendous power state legislatures have, and the boundless capacity of legislators to fritter that power away.

Legislatures affect the way we live more directly than the United States Congress. The hot-button issues generally arrive in legislatures first, sometimes bypassing Congress altogether on their way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Legislatures for the most part govern how we are schooled, what kind of roads we’re driving on, whether we can order a martini in a restaurant, and how and for what we might be imprisoned.

Legislatures even have a say in when we get up in the morning. The General Assembly is considering a bill by Rep. Wes Cantrell aimed at moving the state to year-round daylight saving time. Cantrell has sponsored similar bills twice before, but thinks that time is on his side.

Three of Georgia’s neighboring states have adopted laws similar to Cantrell’s proposal, and this year 32 states are considering similar bills. Proponents argue the yearly shift back and forth between standard and daylight saving time has a measurable impact on people’s health and their proclivity to have accidents.

“I was amazed at how much research has been done on this; something people call a silly topic,” Cantrell told the Georgia Recorder. “People care, and it affects everybody.”

It’s a hot issue in several states. Last week, the North Dakota Senate reject a daylight saving bill by a slim 23-22 vote.

“People don’t like springing ahead and falling back,” the bill’s sponsor said. “The people I’ve talked to want to spring ahead and stay there.”

If all these states wanted to go back to having only standard time, they could do so. Hawaii and Arizona do already. But to move full-time to daylight saving time, which was introduced in the U.S. in 1918, the states will also need congressional approval. Meanwhile, there’s a movement in the New England states to move to Atlantic standard time, which would effectively be the same as year-round daylight saving tme.

It’s ironic, in its way. It was the advent of daylight saving time — first proposed by a New Zealand entomologist, George Hudson, who wanted more daylight after his day job ended so he could find more bugs — which started the controversy over changing times more than a century ago. But it’s daylight saving time that most people want, losing forever that hour we know swap back and forth each year.

Given the grassroots interest in this issue across the country, it has received relatively little media attention compared to our second issue, the dozens of ballot access bills introduced across the country and in Georgia in the wake of the last presidential election.

If the General Assembly were to eliminate no-excuse absentee voting, which 13 million Georgians used in the last election, it would definitely impact the next election, though maybe not in the manner that was intended. But much of what is being proposed would amount to little more than an irritant for those who have to enforce the new rules, such as the requirement that county registrars obtain monthly reports from coroners and funeral homes and check to see which voters have died, and the bill which would bar people who have voted in another state’s general election from voting in a Georgia runoff.

These are essentially remedies for alleged problems in the last election which have already been debunked. Passing these measures would not change the outcome of any future election, and would affect a tiny number of Georgians, while the daylight saving bill would affect all of them.

Nevertheless, a tremendous amount of time will be spent orating on these picayunish measures, and a tremendous amount of attention will be paid to them. It’s more about the posturing, really, than the power.

Tom Baxter has written about politics and the South for more than four decades. He was national editor and chief political correspondent at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and later edited The Southern...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.