On Beacon Hill: Spring ahead — to a time when we don’t change Bay State clocks?

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From State House News Service

ON THE AGENDA

  • Lawmakers to study time-zone change, despite Baker skepticism
  • Experts talk drought, its potential lingering effects
  • U.S. Rep. Lynch the latest Mass. Dem to take on Trump

TOP OF THE HILL

$1B economic development bill includes mandate to consider time-zone shift

Embedded in the $1 billion economic development bill Gov. Charlie Baker signed last week was a measure that could affect when morning begins in Massachusetts.

Under the law, a bipartisan commission would spend some of the fall and winter studying the impacts of permanently shifting Bay State clocks onto Eastern Daylight Time. The panel of lawmakers and executive branch officials must look at impacts of a time-zone alteration on local and regional economies, education, public health, transportation, energy consumption, commerce and trade.

While Baker agreed to the measure and said the administration would study the issue, he said Thursday that he favors the status quo.

Gov. Charlie Baker's state budget vetoes put him at odds with legislative leaders.

State House News Service

Gov. Charlie Baker’s not exactly awaiting the time zone-change study with baited breath.

“I think the time zones we have are fine and they’ve been fine for a very long time. This was particularly important to some folks in the Senate that there be a legislative committee put together to study it, and in deference to the Senate’s interest in doing that we signed that. But my view is the current structure we have is fine,” Baker told reporters on Thursday. “I especially worry that if we head too far down this road we could end up creating a lot of problems for ourselves with respect to all sorts of issues around work schedules, commuting schedules and a whole bunch of other things.”

Massachusetts shifts onto Eastern Daylight Time each year from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November, according to the state. The rest of the year, as the sun slinks below the horizon, the state reverts to its usual EST, which is one hour behind eastern daylight. The clock rollback makes sunrise and sunset arrive earlier in the day.

In 2014, Tom Emswiler wrote in the Boston Globe that Massachusetts should “defect” from its time zone, joining eastern Canada, the Caribbean and parts of South America on Atlantic Standard Time, another name for Eastern Daylight Time, keeping clocks set to their current March-November marks year-round.

Such a move would be a departure for the state of 6.7 million residents. All of New England is in the EST zone, which stretches as far west as parts of Indiana and Michigan. According to the U.S. Navy, portions of Arizona, which sits on the western edge of its time zone, do not observe daylight savings, and neither does Hawaii.

Sen. Joan B. Lovely, D-Salem, said she wonders how a change might affect airline travel and is concerned that it might exacerbate the “real problem” of children walking to school in the predawn hours.

“The only concern I have is kids going to school in the dark,” Lovely told the News Service. “In Salem, the high school kids start at 7:03 [a.m].”

Rep. Elizabeth A. Poirier, R-North Attleborough, House second assistant minority leader, said she is interested in hearing from the business community and others on the proposal. “I am in favor of doing a study,” she told the News Service.

Poirier’s colleagues believe attention could be better spent elsewhere.

“I don’t think it’s something that we really need to put a lot of energy into at this point. I think we have bigger fish to fry, to be honest with you,” Rep. Brad Hill, an Ipswich Republican and House assistant minority leader, told the News Service.

The change to be contemplated by the study commission would put Massachusetts four hours behind England’s Greenwich Mean Time year-round.

The study commission was baked into the Senate Ways and Means Committee’s version of the jobs bill, and survived a House-Senate conference committee before securing the governor’s approval. Sen. Karen A. Spilka, D-Ashland, chairs the Senate committee.

The commission would be tasked with studying the “practical, economic, fiscal and health-related impacts of the commonwealth remaining on Eastern Daylight Time . . . throughout the calendar year.”

Tasked with holding its first meeting no later than Oct. 1, when the days grow shorter, the commission will need to file its report and recommendations by March 31, as the sun climbs higher in the sky.

The 11-member commission would include three gubernatorial appointees and eight appointees from House and Senate leaders.

— Andy Metzger (SHNS)


VIDEOS OF THE WEEK

Weather Service official, DCR boss urge action amid worsening drought

Alan Dunham, from the National Weather Service in Taunton (above), and Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Leo Roy (below).


SAY WHAT?

“The fact that Donald Trump is a major-party nominee, given his lack of experience and the reckless things that he says — I mean, [it] shows you that this system is not rigged.”

U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, D-8th

Lynch shoots down Trump ‘rigged-system’ comments, other targets

Donald Trump’s recent claims that the November election would be “rigged” against him are “shameful” and damaging to democracy, Congressman Stephen Lynch said Thursday.

After attending a bill-signing ceremony, the South Boston congressman and supporter of Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton fielded questions about recent Trump statements.

Lynch said Trump referring ambiguously to what “Second Amendment people” could do to stop Clinton from making judicial appointments was “reckless” and “unfortunate,” and the nominee’s more recent claims that Clinton and President Barack Obama founded the Islamic State terrorist group are “utterly ridiculous.”

Without prompting, Lynch then launched into a takedown of claims by Trump that the election where he will face Clinton and less popular candidates in November would be “rigged.”

Trump and his surrogates have repeated the claim the election would be stolen from them in recent days.

“I don’t know. I just worry. The campaign is one thing, but also the damage to the office and to the whole process. The other day he was complaining that in spite of the fact that he is the Republican nominee, that our political system is rigged and fraudulent. He is proof positive that the system is not rigged,” Lynch said. “The fact that Donald Trump is a major-party nominee, given his lack of experience and the reckless things that he says — I mean, the fact that he is the Republican nominee shows you that this system is not rigged.”

Trump has run an unconventional campaign, relying on his own newsworthy, bombastic statements to keep himself front-and-center and stealing the spotlight from rivals, rather than the traditional route of canned stump speeches, paid television ads and support from those already holding elected office.

U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, second from left, stands with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Mass. Dems in this 2015 photo -- he also stands with them firmly against Donald Trump.

State House News Service / file

U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, second from left, stands with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Mass. Dems in this 2015 photo — he also stands with them firmly against Donald Trump.

The real estate developer-turned-politician’s calls to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country and to target the families of terrorists, along with his no-holds-barred stance toward critics, has turned some Republicans away — even as Clinton stands as the most feasible alternative.

Lynch noted that on his way to winning the nomination, Trump defeated governors — including the chief executives of Texas, Wisconsin and Ohio — as well as U.S. senators.

“If they had the ability to rig it, they would have rigged it for themselves. This system is not rigged. We’ve probably got the strongest democracy on the planet,” Lynch told reporters. “I just think now that he has fallen behind in the polls he’s saying, ‘It’s unfair. It’s rigged. It’s a corrupt system.’ I think that hurts the process.

“Regardless of how this election comes out, you don’t want to cast those type of claims against a very strong democracy. I think it’s shameful.”

— Andy Metzger


IN THE NEWS

More on drought: Experts warn of lingering effects, urge further vigilance

Farmers are worried about their crops, firefighters are battling wildfires burning 8 inches underground, some streams have been reduced to a trickle and homeowners have watched their lawns dry to a pale brown.

Environmental science experts on Thursday agreed: Much of Massachusetts is in the midst of a serious drought and its impact could be felt long after the hot weather gives way to autumn.

The Drought Management Task Force, after hearing from officials from various state and federal organizations, recommended Thursday that the state broaden the scope of its drought declaration to include all of Massachusetts, and to consider elevating the central and northeast parts of the state to a drought warning status, one step shy of a drought emergency.

Also Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor declared portions of Middlesex and Essex counties — a total of 3.66 percent of the state — to be under an “extreme drought,” which a National Weather Service meteorologist said is unprecedented.

“We were talking in the office and we can’t remember the Drought Monitor putting anything in Massachusetts at a D3,” said Alan Dunham of the NWS’ Hydrologic Program, referring to the Drought Monitor’s category for extreme drought. “It’s a rare situation for us.”

Boston Common, Aug. 10

Antonio Caban / State House News Service

Boston Common, Aug. 10

Towns deemed by the Drought Monitor to be under an “extreme drought” include Andover, North Andover, Wilmington, North Reading, Tewksbury, Billerica, Concord, Lexington and Burlington.

According to the Drought Monitor, all of Massachusetts is “abnormally dry” or worse, except for Nantucket. Thursday’s update puts 91.78 percent of the state under at least a “moderate drought,” with 61.7 percent of the state under a “severe drought.”

On Wednesday, firefighters battled a 27-acre fire in Salem — the largest of the 1,330 wildland fires in the state this year, Department of Conservation and Recreation Chief Fire Warden David Celino said.

“That’s fairly unheard of for us. Most of our fires have been small, two to five acres,” Celino said. “Having a 27-acre fire in Salem tells us things are starting to increase in terms of how fire behavior is affected by the drought.”

And since last Sunday, a 1.5-acre fire has been burning — mostly six to eight inches underground — in the Blue Hills Reservation south of Boston, Celino said. Because groundwater levels are so low, fires can more easily work their way underground, making them difficult and more dangerous to extinguish, he said.

By almost every measurement used to assess a drought — streamflow, groundwater, precipitation, reservoir levels, crop moisture and more — the state is below normal.

Under an official drought declaration since July 1, the Massachusetts Drought Management Task Force on Thursday recommended that the western part of the state and Cape Cod and the Islands be moved from the “normal” category and be placed under a drought advisory. The group also suggested that the southeast region and the Connecticut River Valley be elevated from an advisory to a drought watch.

[Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton of Shrewsbury announced late Friday that he elevated the entire state to a drought advisory and the central and northeast parts of Massachusetts to a drought warning.]

The group debated how to handle the central and northeast regions, where the drought has had its most profound impacts. Some members said that because some streams in those areas have already dried up, they should be placed under a drought warning — the second-highest classification.

“One of the reasons we think it’s important to address the intensity of the drought now rather than wait until September is that this is the time of year when people really use a lot of water,” said Julia Blatt, executive director of the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance. “We can in some way assess the severity of the problem so people will use less water; this is the time of year when it can make a difference. If we wait until September, we will have missed an opportunity to conserve a lot of water.”

“I think we heard from several people in the room the importance of trying to save water now so we can keep our resource available moving forward,” DCR Commissioner Leo Roy said. “The next six weeks are really critical … our delay in moving to a higher level may be a lost opportunity in conserving water.”

As the drought languishes through the already short growing season, Massachusetts farmers have been hit particularly hard.

The state Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR), working with the University of Massachusetts system, last week began circulating to farmers a survey assessing the extent to which Bay State farmers have lost crops due to the drought.

“Preliminary findings do indicate that a substantial number of farmers have seen crop losses of 30 percent or greater,” said Trevor Battle, an environmental health inspector for DAR. He noted that the survey will continue to circulate until Aug. 19.

Dunham said Boston is about an inch shy of its average rainfall total for the month of August, and Worcester is right at its average amount. The last month the cities received greater-than-average precipitation was February, he said.

The drought is not just a result of six months of dry weather, Dunham said, but rather has been growing bit by bit as precipitation has come in below average over a longer period of time.

“The last 36 months, three years, we’ve been dealing with below normal precip quite a lot,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate where we have very dry summers but we get a recovery in the fall. But overall, this has been building up.”

— Colin A. Young, with Antonio Caban contributing (SHNS)

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