Time for a change? States discuss daylight saving time

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/7/2014

Truckers and most others throughout the country will change their clocks this weekend in observance of daylight saving time. The ritual comes as state lawmakers stretching from Florida to Idaho are talking about whether time changes are worth continuing.

Time changes in the U.S. date back to the late nineteenth century when the railroad industry set official time zones with a standard time within each zone. By 1918, the feds took control and handed responsibility to the Interstate Commerce Commission – as well as the authority to observe daylight saving time.

Today, federal law doesn’t require states to observe daylight saving time, but if they choose to follow the time change they must adhere to the dates set. Arizona and Hawaii are the lone states not to observe time changes.

In Tennessee, a push is underway to nix future time changes. Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, introduced a bill that would keep the state on daylight saving time year round.

During discussion on the bill at a House subcommittee hearing, Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar, was apprehensive about the push. Describing the effort as “a wangdanger,” he questioned whether Todd had investigated it thoroughly.

Todd told the panel he has heard from many people on the issue and nearly everyone has endorsed the change. He said beneficiaries would include farmers, schoolchildren and families.

“I think it’s a good bill. It’s something we could all live with,” Todd said.

Critics of doing away with time changes, however, claim that farmers need the extra daylight in the morning. They also say that kids walking to school, or waiting for the bus, during the winter months most likely would be out in the dark.

The bill, HB1909, advanced from the subcommittee and awaits further consideration in the House State Government Committee.

Similar efforts are underway across the state line in Alabama and further south into Florida.

A Kentucky lawmaker is taking a different approach to nixing regular time changes. Rep. Kevin Sinette, D-Ashland, introduced a bill that would keep the state on standard time.

He cites increased energy costs during evening hours as well as health benefits for people with sleep disorders for avoiding future time switches.

The same pursuit to avoid falling back is underway in Idaho.

Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, stated the change is a significant disruption to families, businesses and individuals twice a year.

“Several studies even show that accidents increase during the week that daylight saving time is observed,” Moyle wrote in a note attached to the bill. “The adverse affects of having to change time is real and can and should be eliminated.”

In neighboring Utah, a Senate committee voted to advance a House-approved bill to the full Senate that wouldn’t advocate one way or the other on the issue. HB197 simply calls for a meeting on whether the state should abandon time changes.

Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, said she’s heard from constituents throughout her time in the Legislature asking about whether the state was going to do away with time changes. She said she decided to do something to spur discussion on the topic.

“This bill would bring people together to talk about their issues and their concerns. After that meeting the comments and recommendations would be provided to lawmakers,” Menlove told a House panel.

She said the goal isn’t necessarily to change daylight saving time.

“The most important outcome is to let the people feel like they’ve been heard.”

The bill specifies that the meeting include “parents, senior citizens, and representatives from the agricultural, public education, recreation, and business communities.”

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