Time for a change? Eleven states discuss daylight saving time

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, February 27, 2015

Truckers and almost everyone else throughout the country will change their clocks in about one week in observance of daylight saving time. The ritual comes as legislators in at least 11 states stretching from Florida to Alaska are talking about whether time changes are worth continuing.

Time changes in the U.S. date back to the late 19th 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 take part in time changes.

Supporters of observing one time throughout the year say beneficiaries would include farmers, schoolchildren and families. They also say there are health impacts with changing clocks. They site increased rates of heart attacks, suicide and traffic wrecks in the spring.

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.

In New Mexico, the Senate Public Affairs Committee voted 4-1 on Thursday, Feb. 26, to advance a bill to keep daylight-saving time year-round. Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, said regular time changes are inconvenient.

He told the panel that farmers work during daylight regardless what the clock reads.

Other states reviewing legislation to exempt them from daylight saving time include Alaska, Idaho, Texas, Utah and Washington.

In Alaska, Sen. Anna McKinnon, R-Eagle River, said during recent discussion on the bill that the negative effects associated with daylight saving time spurred her to pursue the change. She cited research that found health effects that include heart attacks, vehicle wrecks and suicide associated with time switches.

Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, said if the bill moves forward he will ask for southeast Alaska to be excluded. He said elimination of daylight saving time would put the capitol city of Juneau as much as five hours behind the East Coast.

Washington state Rep. Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe, says time changes have shown to result in sleep deprivation by disrupting people’s circadian rhythms, or internal clock, for weeks. Effects include an increase in heart attacks and a drop in productivity.

Along with health and productivity concerns, Scott asked members of the House State Government Committee during a recent hearing whether they would appreciate the time exemption on July Fourth.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have the Independence Day fireworks start before 10 p.m.?”

In addition to dropping DST, two Utah measures call on the state to petition the U.S. Department of Transportation to approve the state switching from Mountain Standard Time to Central Standard Time.

One year ago, the Utah Legislature approved a bill covering the state’s recognition of DST. As a result, officials and residents met to discuss the issue.

Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, told the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee that 27,000 people were surveyed.

“The feedback was overwhelming. While it was not a scientific poll, the majority voted to stop going back and forth with the resetting of clocks,” Osmond testified.

He said he has heard from constituents that they would like to have an extra hour of daylight in the evening. He also told a Senate panel there is no evidence that shows vehicle wrecks are reduced in the early morning hours during the recognition of DST.

States reviewing legislation to stay on DST year-round include Florida, Illinois and Oregon. In Missouri, a legislative effort would allow voters to decide whether to keep the state on DST throughout the year.

Efforts in Nevada and Washington would urge the U.S. Congress to enact legislation allowing states to establish daylight saving time as the standard time throughout the calendar year.

Meanwhile, an Arizona bill to recognize daylight saving time was withdrawn by the sponsor only days after its introduction. Rep. Phil Lovas, R-Peoria, said although he thinks it is a good idea to sync the state with 48 other states where time changes are a regular occurrence, most of the feedback he received was against the idea.

“As an elected official I always listen to the voters.”

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