The Debate Over Indiana's Time Zone: Is It CST or EST?

The debate over Indiana's time zone has been ongoing for decades. In 1949, the Indiana General Assembly passed a bill to put the entire state in Central Standard Time (CST) and ban Daylight Saving Time (DST). However, the law had no enforcement power and was largely ignored by communities that wanted to observe Eastern Standard Time (EST). In 1957, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law to make CST the state's official time zone, but allowed any community to switch to DST during the summer. The law made it illegal for communities to observe fast time (ie., Handley vowed to enforce the law by withdrawing state aid from communities that tried to observe rapid weather during the winter, although legal obstacles forced the Governor to back down in his stance.

In 1961, the Indiana legislature repealed the 1957 law that made CST the official time of Indiana, allowing any community to observe DST. The Interstate Commerce Commission divided Indiana by the Central Time Zone and the Eastern Time Zone. However, neither the time zone line nor DST was observed uniformly. The United States Congress subsequently passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966 (Pub. L.), which required all states to observe DST. Prior to this law, each state was allowed to decide this issue for itself.

Having the state divided into two time zones was inconvenient, so Governor Roger D. Branigin asked the USDOT to put all of Indiana back in the Central Time Zone a year later. After several hearings, USDOT chose to divide Indiana between CST and EST. Six counties near Chicago (Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Jasper, Newton and Starke) and six counties near Evansville (Posey, Vanderburgh, Warrick, Spencer, Gibson and Pike) were placed in CST respecting DST. The rest of the state was placed in EST; however, several counties unofficially observed DST due to their proximity to major cities that observed DST.

In 1968, several broadcasters filed a federal lawsuit against USDOT to force them to enforce DST in Indiana. As a result, USDOT was ordered to provide a plan for its enforcement. In 1972, Indiana General Assembly overturned a veto by Governor Whitcomb to place Indiana's northwest and southwest corners in CST during DST and placing the rest of the state in EST throughout the year.

Attitudes began to change in the 1990s when Indiana's complicated time zone situation was considered to prevent economic growth. In 1991, Starke County asked USDOT to move it from CST to EST for the third time. This time, the petition was granted starting October 27th 1991. Pulaski County returned to EST on March 11th when DST resumed. When Standard Time resumed on Nov 3rd all five Southwest Counties (Daviess, Dubois, Knox, Martin and Pike) returned to EST. Perry County petitioned to move to EST but was denied.

Some argue that the entire state should move to CST while others would prefer that the state revert to non-observance of DST. Opponents of putting the entire state in a time zone often cite out-of-state cities as their reason for opposition. Supporters of DST and a common time zone in Indiana often claim that Indiana should adopt Eastern United States timing system for interstate business with that region.

The confusion caused by Indiana's peculiarities featured prominently in an episode of The West Wing in which presidential aides who were unfamiliar with Indiana's non-compliance with DST were left confused.

Reuben Macedonio
Reuben Macedonio

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