Time changes evaluated in 11 states

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/4/2016

As the annual ritual nears to change clocks, state lawmakers from Massachusetts to Washington are talking about whether the observance of daylight saving time is worth continuing.

Time changes in the U.S. date back to the late 19th century when the railroad took control and handed the authority to the Interstate Commerce Commission 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. This year, the time change is set to take effect on March 13.

During the past year lawmakers in nearly half of all states have discussed legislation on the recognition of time changes and there’s plenty of debate on whether to continue the practice.

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 cite increased rates of heart attacks, suicide and traffic wrecks in the spring.

Critics of doing away with time changes, however, claim the same people actually benefit from DST and 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.

Two Florida bills attempt to keep the Sunshine State on daylight saving time year-round. Advocates say doing away with standard time in the popular vacation destination would benefit tourists who prefer more daylight in the evening.

Other states reviewing legislation to exempt them from time changes in the fall include California, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Dakota. Currently, Arizona and Hawaii are the lone states not to take part in time changes.

California and Mississippi have measures to urge the U.S. Congress to allow states to decide on the observance of daylight saving time.

California State Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, R-Big Bear Lake, says the 20th-century energy reduction measure can be expanded to meet 21st century energy shortages.

Obernolte refers to a 2008 federal Department of Energy report, which concluded that extended DST saves the U.S. approximately 0.5 percent energy each day it is used.

South Dakota lawmakers this year have already taken up for consideration a bill to make DST permanent.

“There isn’t anybody in my neck of the woods that gets a kick out of changing their clocks twice a year,” Sen. Betty Olson, R-Prairie City, said on the Senate floor. “Please vote for this. I’m so doggone sick of changing my time. ... (The time change requirement) is a joke.”

Critics of the effort offered anecdotes for their opposition.

The state Senate came up one vote shy of the count needed to advance the effort to stay on Mountain Time year-round.

Elsewhere, state lawmakers are pursuing rules that would permit their states to eliminate the spring time change.

A Utah bill would allow the state to join neighboring Arizona in not recognizing DST.

Supporters of DST in the Utah Legislature say they have heard from constituents that they would like to have an extra hour of daylight in the evening. Supporters also say there is no evidence that shows vehicle wrecks are reduced in the early morning hours during the recognition of DST.

An effort underway across the state line in Wyoming would also authorize the state to ignore time changes.

In Missouri, two legislative efforts would leave the final decision on the state’s observance of DST to others outside the Show-Me State.

One House resolution would let the state’s voters decide whether to pursue an exemption from time changes. If approved by voters, the state would delay adoption of the rule until two states adjacent to Missouri also act to do away with DST recognition.

A separate House resolution would skip the process of putting the question on the statewide ballot and instead rely solely on the decisions of any two of Missouri’s eight adjacent states.

Multiple bills in the state of Washington propose to eliminate DST and stick with Pacific Time all year.

One Michigan bill calls for petitioning the U.S. Department of Transportation to include the entire state within the Eastern Time zone.

And a Massachusetts bill would set up a commission to study the impact of changing the state’s time zone from Eastern Time to Atlantic Time.

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