New Mexicans might no longer have to change their clocks twice a year.
An ongoing effort to keep New Mexico on daylight saving time year-round passed the Senate on a 22-18 vote Friday.
But it’s far from a done deal.
Not only does Senate Bill 102 still need approval from the state House of Representatives, where a similar measure has languished in the past, the change could occur only “after a federal law has been enacted allowing a state to exempt itself from reverting to standard time from daylight saving time,” the bill states.
“Congress would have to pass enabling legislation to allow states to do this,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell. “I think what’s important to note is that Congress is not very likely to do such a thing, but what we are hoping is that if enough states pass this, that Congress would put permanent daylight savings across the entire country.”
Supporters of the measure said it’s not just about springing forward or falling back every year. Studies have shown an increase in car accidents, heart attacks and other medical consequences as a result of the time change, they said.
“The reality is changing time kills people,” Pirtle said. “Although this becomes this fun debate, it has a serious side to it.”
Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said he has voted in favor and in opposition of the bill in the past.
“I have constituents that think this is the best thing in the world, and I have constituents who think this is terrible,” he said. “I’m voting to maintain the status quo.”
Lawmakers from the southern part of the state whose districts border Texas and Mexico voted against the measure, saying it could affect interstate commerce.
“We sit at the crossroads of a continent down in Santa Teresa,” said Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces.
“There’s one and a half billion dollars worth of goods crossing that border every single month, and you [putting] in a disruption of that through an artificial change in the time where some of the year we would match and some of the year we would not is just unreasonable as far as just the pure economics of it,” he said. “Please consider down there where we’ve got a large municipality, El Paso, and then also Juárez as part of our economic base that putting a wall of time between the two communities is just not functional or feasible and will cause economic disruption.”
Sen. Joe Cervantes, another Las Cruces Democrat, predicted “massive economic disruption.”
“Please understand the implications,” he said. “If one side of the border is on one time zone for half of the year and the other half of the border is on a different time zone half of the year, what does that do to our airports, our air flights, our doctor’s appointments, our business hours, our train schedule and so forth?”
In a statement issued after the vote, Pirtle said his continued priority as a legislator is to do what is best for New Mexico families.
“That extra hour at the end of the day is an extra hour families can spend together and an extra hour of safety for those commuting home from work,” he said.
Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.