The three state senators that represent Florida’s westernmost counties — the only part of Florida currently in the Central Time Zone — have come out against a bill which would move the area to Eastern time.
Sen. Doug Broxson of Pensacola, Sen. George Gainer of Panama City, and Sen. Bill Montford of Tallahassee said in a joint statement that they have “serious concerns” about SB 858, also called the “Sunshine Protection Act.” The bill, proposed by Sarasota Sen. Greg Steube, would unite the entire state under Eastern time and would ask Congress to allow the state to observe daylight savings time year-round.
“Senator Gainer, Senator Montford, and myself represent people who live and work in the Central time zone and we adamantly oppose any move to change to Eastern time zone,” said Broxson. “We have heard our constituents loud and clear that they want to us to maintain our historical place in the Central time zone.”
Currently, nine Florida counties — Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Bay, Jackson, and Calhoun — as well as the northern part of Gulf County are located within the central time zone, while the rest of Florida is on eastern time.
“This is a much bigger issue than the convenience for my constituents,” said Montford. “Parents, understandably, do not want their children waiting for the bus in the dark, just as one example. It becomes a safety issue for our school districts. We need to look at this issue from a more comprehensive standpoint, because there will much more far-reaching implications than I think people realize. I have constituents in both time zones and if we look closely at this issue, we might see that it could cause more problems than remembering to reset your watch when you come across the river.”
The bill last week passed the Senate’s Community Affairs Committee, but must also win approval from the Commerce and Tourism Committee and Rules Committee before making it to the Senate floor.
“We do not need the state legislature to tell us what time it is,” Gainer said. “Anything of this magnitude that affects our daily lives should be put to a vote by the people.”