SALT LAKE CITY — Long before she ever thought about running for the Utah Legislature, state Rep. Marsha Judkins was frustrated with the biannual time changes to extend daylight an extra hour into the evening during the longest days of the year.
“I have seven kids and some of them have just real sleep difficulties. I always thought, ‘Why don’t we stop this insanity of changing our clocks? If I was a legislator, that’s what I would do,’” the first-term Republican lawmaker from Provo said.
She got her chance at the end of the 2019 Legislature, getting a resolution passed on the final day of the session that backs a bill in Congress introduced in July 2018 by U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, calling for states to have the power to decide whether to continue the “spring forward” and “fall back” routine.
“This resolution was a happy place for a lot of people,” Judkins said of succeeding where other Utah lawmakers have failed in their attempts to win support for time-change related legislation. “So that pretty much flew through. ... At that point, it was watered-down enough.”
Now, the Utah Senate sponsor of Judkins’ resolution, Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, is putting together a bill for the 2020 Legislature that would make daylight saving time the law year-round in Utah — once at least four other states in the region do the same and the federal government gives the go-ahead.
Although states can “ditch the switch” to stay on standard time throughout the year, as Arizona and Hawaii have done, they can’t move to a permanent daylight saving time schedule without action by Congress. That system, originally set up to save fuel during World War I and World War II, has been modified over the years by Washington politicians.
There are currently about eight months of daylight saving time, which ends this year on Nov. 3 at 2 a.m.
“There’s been pros and cons and discussions on this for decades,” Harper said, with little action. But that’s changing, with states like Washington, Oregon, California, Florida, Maine and Tennessee already on board and others considering a similar strategy of making it clear to Congress they want the choice.
Bishop, whose bill is still awaiting a hearing despite support that includes both progressive Democrats and Freedom Caucus Republicans, said state lawmakers “shouldn’t have to beg for Congress to allow the state of Utah something that they want to do that’s beneficial to their citizens. There is that element to it.”
He said that’s why his bill would leave it up to the states to decide whether to keep the current system or adopt either standard or daylight saving time, the way the longtime congressman said he believes the federal government should handle most issues.
“States should be able to make decisions for themselves without the perimeters basically being restricted by the federal government, especially when it doesn’t make sense,” Bishop said. He doesn’t bother changing his own clocks, he said, preferring instead “the mental exercise to either add or subtract an hour to what’s on the clock.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is also running time change legislation. Rubio’s Sunshine Protection Act would establish daylight saving time nationwide. Florida lawmakers already decided in 2018 to shift the state to that schedule as soon as Congress permits.
But even with two bills pending, the issue isn’t getting much attention in Washington.
“Obviously, this isn’t going to make the MSNBC broadcast tonight,” Rubio spokesman Nick Iacovella told the Deseret News. But he said the office is “pretty hopeful that we will have a hearing in (the Senate) Commerce (Committee) at some point this year.”
Iacovella said the action taken by Florida has helped spur interest in ending the time change around the country.
“The trend is certainly going in that direction. So that’s helpful,” he said of state efforts, including in Utah. “If people in Utah realize this is something that’s worth doing and the lawmakers there feel that way and they take action on it, that would add to the growing number of states that are.”
The more states that take a stand on time change, the more pressure there will be on Congress, Iacovella said.
“It’s clearly an outdated practice, right? When you talk to people, no one likes it. But some people don’t know we don’t have to do it,” he said. “There’s clear benefits to making daylight saving time permanent. So once people realize that, too, they’re much more open to doing it. ... The biggest hurdle is really just that education front.”
“It’s clearly an outdated practice, right? When you talk to people, no one likes it. But some people don’t know we don’t have to do it.”
Denver-based technology entrepreneur Scott Yates has been trying to build support for ending time changes for more than five years via a website that has attracted the attention of media outlets here and abroad, including National Geographic, The New York Times, NBC News and the BBC.
“#LockThe Clock — Stop Changing Clocks for Daylight Saving Time,” declares the homepage of his website, billed as “The official site of the movement to quit changing clocks in and out of DST” alongside art of a hammer coming down on an alarm clock.
“It’s just a hobby,” Yates said of his attempt to spread the word about the need to do away with changing clocks. He warns through medical studies he links to via his website that the practice causes everything from car crashes and harsher court sentences to more heart attacks, strokes and miscarriages, as well as hurting relationships and workplace productivity.
He said he’s agnostic on whether standard or daylight saving time should be adopted instead, and said he favors following what the European Union is doing, allowing member countries to choose for themselves once mandated daylight saving time ends after 2021.
“Most people and most businesses in most states prefer more sunlight later in the day, so in general it would be sticking with what we think of now as daylight saving time,” Yates said. But even if there’s a mix within the same time zone, he said it would still be less confusing than the twice-a-year shift.
Yates is optimistic that change is coming.
“Lots is happening. Since I started, it’s amazing how much activity there is,” he said. “It’s now a legitimate issue.”
In past years, resolutions on time change would surface in a few states but fail to pass, Yates said, but currently, some 30 bills are being considered in states around the country. In Canada, some 93% of British Columbia residents said they want year-round daylight saving time.
Harper said he believes that’s what most Utahns also want, preferring an additional hour of daylight in the evening to give them more time to spend outdoors with their families. And he said they really don’t like the effects of springing forward in April and falling back in November, especially on their health.
“I think we’re listening and responding to what we’re hearing. But it’s not just a single state that’s doing it,” Harper said. “We’re doing it together.”
Not everyone in the Utah Legislature is ready to back moving to daylight saving time for good.
“I’m not in favor of it. I think it’s hard on the recreation industry. It’s hard on the tourist industry. It’s not business friendly,” said state Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, president and CEO of DATS Trucking, a company that operates throughout the Intermountain West.
“I think it’s hard on the recreation industry. It’s hard on the tourist industry. It’s not business friendly.”
Changing the time forward or backward “takes you about 30 seconds. I don’t see that affects my business at all,” Ipson said. What is a problem is dealing with Arizona, which stays on standard time year round, meaning it’s out of sync with other states about a third of the year.
That’s “a nightmare” for scheduling shipments between states, Ipson said.
Still, he said he’s willing to consider a proposal that would put all states on the same clock, so the only changes would be between time zones.
“I just wish we would leave it alone,” Ipson, Senate vice chairman of the Legislature’s powerful Executive Appropriations Committee. “But if there’s a better way to do it, I’m broad-minded enough to accept that. But everybody’s got to get on board or I’m not in favor of it.”
Utah state Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, who recently made a presentation to a national legislative group about joining forces to put an end to the twice-a-year time change, said he started paying attention to the issue when a constituent survey showed residents of his district overwhelmingly agree it’s time to stop.
“At first I thought it was just silly,” Ward said. But unlike other topics lawmakers take on, whether clocks should continue to be changed twice a year “is the simplest issue you can get. Every single person understands what it means on a personal level.”
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly said there are about four months of daylight saving time. There are about eight months.