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City and County Building clock tower in Salt Lake City. Utah is among 19 states hoping Congress will let them change to permanent daylight saving time.
The clock tower on the City-County Building is pictured in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Utah is among 19 states hoping Congress will let them change to permanent daylight saving time.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

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Will daylight saving time eventually become America’s standard time?

For more than a century, the retail industry has championed daylight saving time and recent momentum to make it permanent has involved 19 states, including seven in the West

Everyday people won’t be the only ones groaning this weekend when they show up for church services or other Sunday activities an hour early because they forgot to turn their clocks back. Some state and federal legislators will likely be shaking their heads in exasperation as well.

Almost 20 states, including seven in the West, have laws that would allow them to never have to turn their clocks back 60 minutes again. They just need Congress to give them the go ahead. But like many issues in Washington, two GOP-sponsored bills that would do just that are stuck and their prospects uncertain.

Since 2015, at least 350 bills and resolutions have been introduced in nearly every state over the country’s biannual changing of the clocks, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But it was Florida that started a political movement by enacting legislation that would permanently observe daylight saving time in that state, pending a change in federal law. Some 18 states have since followed suit:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • California (voters authorized such a change in 2018, but legislative action is pending)
  • Delaware
  • Georgia,
  • Idaho,
  • Louisiana,
  • Maine,
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Ohio (resolution)
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

The only states that currently don’t switch to daylight saving time are Arizona and Hawaii.

In March, about the time daylight saving time began again this year, Republicans Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida introduced bills that would allow states to impose daylight saving time year round. A third bill that would do the same was introduced this month by Alabama GOP Rep. Mike Rogers.

Both Stewart and Rubio derided the biannual time change as antiquated and unnecessary federal overreach. The time switching became federal policy in 1966 under the Uniform Time Act, which allows states like Arizona and Hawaii to exempt themselves from daylight saving but doesn’t allow them to impose it permanently.

Gaining momentum

Despite both House and Senate bills being introduced by Republicans, changing clocks twice a year isn’t a partisan issue. The federal legislation has bipartisan support and six of the 19 states that have enacted laws to make daylight saving permanent are solidly blue.

Lawmakers spearheading and supporting efforts to end the decades-old practice of switching time twice a year appear to be following their constituents wishes, according to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“Opinions are mixed on the benefits of daylight time versus standard time, but the actual March and November time changes are almost universally reviled because of all the accompanying adjustments we must make, like coming home from work in the dark and the slower-than-expected resetting of our internal time clocks,” the conference concluded.

Daylight saving time was first imposed more than a century ago as an energy saving measure. In fact, the latest government tweak that extended the daylight saving to 8 months came in a 2005 energy bill, according to National Public Radio.

But critics say the savings from turning lights out have been overstated, particularly with other types of energy-saving innovations implemented since moving clocks ahead one hour for part of the year was first done in World War I in America and Europe.

The NPR article cited the late Michael Downing, a Tufts University professor who wrote “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time,” in explaining who has historically championed adding extra hours of daylight.

“What we don’t tend to know as Americans is that the biggest lobby on behalf of daylight saving since 1915 in this country — and to this very day — is the Chamber of Commerce,” Downing says in a 2015 video about daylight saving.

“When Congress held hearings on extending daylight saving time in the mid-1980s, officials from the golf industry said an ‘additional month of daylight saving was worth $200 million in additional sales of golf clubs and greens fees,’” Downing told NPR in 2007. “‘The barbecue industry said it was worth $100 million.’”

With that kind of clout behind it, the momentum to shrink standard time from four months to none will likely build before it fades away.

But the medical community will remain the loyal opposition to imposing permanent daylight saving time, the Deseret News has reported. A recent episode of The New York Times podcast “The Argument” had experts citing studies showing that moving clocks ahead an hour has been tied to health risks ranging from auto fatalities to cancer.

What both sides seem to agree on is that the biannual time change is a bad idea. Less than half (70) of the world’s 195 countries observe daylight saving time, according to CNN. Time will tell if permanent daylight saving wins out to be the new standard time in the United States.

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