The Indiana Time Zone Debate: Is Indiana on CST Time?

The debate over the time zone in Indiana 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 General Assembly passed a law to make CST the official time zone of Indiana, but allowed any community to switch to DST during the summer.

The law also made it illegal for communities to observe fast time (i.e. EST) during the winter, although legal obstacles forced the Governor to back down from this 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 In 1961, the Indiana legislature repealed the 1957 law that made CST the official time of Indiana, allowing any community to observe DST.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 into two time zones: Central and Eastern.

Neither the time zone line nor DST was observed uniformly. The United States Congress subsequently passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966, which required all states to decide on a single time zone for their entire state. In response to this law, Governor Roger D. Branigin asked the USDOT to put all of Indiana back in the Central Time Zone in 1967.Over the next two years, USDOT held several hearings in response to Governor Branigan's request.

Citizens in northwest and southwest Indiana seemed to favor CST with DST observance, while those in other areas of the state favored EST without observing DST. USDOT chose to divide Indiana between CST and EST, with six counties near Chicago and six counties near Evansville placed in CST with DST observance. The rest of the state was placed in EST without observing DST. Several broadcasters filed a federal lawsuit in 1968 to force USDOT to enforce DST in Indiana, which they won.

As a result, USDOT was ordered to provide a plan for its enforcement. In 1972, the Indiana General Assembly overturned a veto by Governor Whitcomb to place Indiana's northwest and southwest corners in CST with DST observance and placing the rest of the state in EST throughout the year. Several counties in eastern Indiana chose to observe DST unofficially, despite Indiana statute.Attitudes began to change in the 1990s when Indiana's complicated time zone situation was considered to prevent economic growth. Interstate travel and commerce were difficult as people wondered what time it was in Indiana? In 1991, Starke County asked USDOT to move it from CST to EST for the third time; this petition was granted starting October 27th of that year.

Pulaski County returned to EST on March 11th when DST resumed and when Standard Time resumed on November 3rd all five Southwest Counties (Daviess, Dubois, Knox, Martin, and Pike) returned to EST as well.The decades-long debate over Indiana's time zone remains controversial today. 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 single time zone often cite out-of-state cities as their reason for opposition; for example, counties in northwest Indiana are part of the Chicago metropolitan area while counties in southeastern corner are suburbs of cities such as Cincinnati and Louisville which observe EST.Supporters of DST and a common time zone in Indiana often claim that Indiana should adopt Eastern United States timing system to preserve interstate business with that region. Some believe that companies have wasted hours of productive time with their out-of-state colleagues due to confusion caused by different weather systems.The confusion caused by different weather systems featured prominently in an episode of The West Wing where characters discussed how difficult it is for outsiders to keep track of what time it is in Indiana.

Reuben Macedonio
Reuben Macedonio

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