Ed Davies quotes:

> # Lord Howie of Troon: I do not want to irritate my noble friend,
> # but I am under the impression that the state of Arizona has a time
> # zone which might be called eastern mountain time or some such, but
> # the Navaho reservation, which consists of something like 20 per
> # cent. of the top right-hand corner of Arizona has its own time
> # zone. So it can be done. However, I mention this point only to
> # confuse the issue! All I am saying is that it can be done--but
> # it should not be done in this case.

A clarification from a resident:  Arizona lies within the Mountain time
zone (the mountains in question are the Rockies which extend N-S from
Mexico into Canada).

As is likely clear to the rest of the world given the current
administration, a key issue in American politics is states rights.
In regards to this issue, the 50 U.S. states (and several territories
and such) retain jurisdiction over questions of time.  There would be
no discussion in the U.S. Senate corresponding to the fascinating
discussion from the U.K. House of Lords because the "devolution"
question is already settled.  In particular, individual states decide
what time zone(s) they occupy and whether to observe Daylight Saving.
About a third of the states are split in two by time zones and a few
such as Arizona do not observe Daylight Saving.  (The last thing we
need to save in Arizona is daylight :-)

Lord Howie is correct that the Navajo Nation maintains its own
jurisdiction over time separate from Arizona.  I'm resisting the
impulse to interpret the Lord's remarks out of context - there does
appear to be the suggestion that legal precedents from the American
southwest are unworthy of note.

The precise situation is that Arizona and surrounding states are in
the Mountain time zone.  The majority of the Navajo Reservation lies
within Arizona, but it also extends into Utah and New Mexico.  Arizona,
quite reasonably I might add, chooses not to observe Daylight Saving.
The Navajos, quite reasonably, do choose to observe Daylight Saving
such that the entire Reservation keeps the same time.

The situation is actually more complicated than this.  The Hopi
Reservation lies entirely within the Navajo Reservation (and entirely
within Arizona, as well).  The Hopi and the Navajo rarely see eye to
eye, and time is no exception.  The Hopi - again quite reasonably -
choose NOT to observe Daylight Saving.  Whether this is because Hopi
interests align more with the states's than with their immediate
neighbors - or whether this is because time simply has a different
meaning when sitting on top of a mesa - it is just a fact that all
three of these local jurisdictions have made different choices about
their own usage of civil time.

What is the underlying timebase for each of these legal entities?
The notion of time-of-day, embodied by Greenwich Mean Time, is so
ingrained in the population that I doubt you would be able to find
an individual working within any of the three governments who would
even understand the question without a large amount of discussion.

> # Lord Sewel: I am glad that the noble Lord agrees with me that
> # what is good for Arizona is not necessarily good for the United
> # Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Exactly!  That being the case, please tell me how well a unilateral
decision to stop delivering time as an approximation to GMT will be
received by the hundreds and thousands of local authorities who will
suddenly be faced with a worldwide mess caused by an obscure technical
standards committee.

> 1.  At least some of the lawyers have a quite reasonable
>     understanding of the time scale issues - in particular,
>     they know the problems with GMT.

An educated lawyer is more dangerous than an ignorant one.
Lawsuits related to any change in UTC will not just be some effect
of an ignorant public - they will occur because of sincere and
well educated differences of opinion.  Did Ma and Pa die on the
same day (or month)?  Was a contract null and void because some
deadline wasn't met?  Did a lame duck president sign a bill before
or after vacating his authority?  Did the governer's stay of execution
arrive in time?  Note that these questions are not necessarily tied
to a few second (but growing) window at midnight.  It wouldn't be too
hard to come up with a situation that wraps around a full 24 hours
because some midnight deadline has to wait for the next midnight.

    "You have until midnight today to count the butterfly ballots."

    "But, yer honer, by the timebase adopted by the county supervisors,
    it was 13 seconds past midnight when your decision was delivered."

A few years ago this might even have seemed absurdly unlikely...

Address the full breadth of issues *before* attempting to ram
through a distinctly non-unanimous "technical" change in UTC.

> 2.  The law (1978 Interpretation Act) only sets a default time
>     scale for use when no other is specified.  If you want to
>     use TDB in writing your will then that's fine.

I suspect this is a feature of the law that has never been tested.
Imagine a contract that specifies not only a particular obscure
timebase, but even a specific clock that must be used to time some
contract.  English Common Law (the basis for American law we are given
to understand) has always seemed to value reasonableness.  How will a
judge tend to interpret a contract with trivial provisions that might
well be seen as corresponding to a public nuisance?

> 3.  If the government thought the issue was worth dealing with
>     they already have the outline bill to hand.

Somehow I don't find that very comforting.

If the proponents of a change to UTC believe such issues to be trivial,
then they must believe that it would be trivial to dispose of them.
Do us all a favor and invest the trivial amount of effort necessary
to convince yourself otherwise.

Rob Seaman
National Optical Astronomy Observatory

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