Utahns will continue to adjust their clocks every spring and fall — at least for the foreseeable future — after a bill to abandon the biannual time change tripped up in a Senate committee.
A plan to “spring forward and stay sprung,” as SB175 sponsor Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, put it, is the latest attempt for the state to move on from the time switching that became federal policy under the Uniform Time Act in 1966.
In 2020, then-Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill that would make daylight saving time permanent in Utah, but only with approval from Congress and if there is similar legislation in at least four other Western states.
A handful of bills have been proposed at the federal level, including one from Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah, but Congress has yet to take any action.
Federal law offers exemptions for states to observe permanent standard time, like Arizona and Hawaii.
During a Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services committee hearing on Friday, McCay made the case for his latest bill, which would let Utah move forward with the proposed change without waiting for Congress. McCay argued it’s an issue Utah can take initiative on, and quoted U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, saying “The states are separate and independent sovereigns, and sometimes they have to act like it.”
Biannual clock changes are generally unpopular, but there isn’t consensus on whether to adopt permanent standard time or permanent daylight saving time. Daylight saving time is adopted during the summer months — providing more light in the evening — while standard time is currently observed in the winter.
“Recent polls confirm that people hate daylight saving time,” McCay said, referring to the clock change. “They want one or the other. Stay backward, or stay forward.”
Time changes have been linked by some studies to a variety of health concerns, including heart problems, depression, suicide and car crashes. Switching to standard time during the darker winter months can sometimes lead to seasonal affective disorder, according to some psychologists.
McCay also said he had reached out to major technology companies to get more information about what a potential time change would mean.
“Believe it or not, Apple is more powerful than the federal government is on this issue,” he said.
“As is Android, for those poor, pathetic people using Android,” McCay continued, ribbing Sen. Jake Anderegg for always making his “group text messages go green.”
Committee chairman Sen. Ron Winterton, R-Roosevelt, ultimately used his prerogative to move forward without a vote, saying “From all the emails that I’ve received, there’s not support to move this forward and take it to the Senate floor.”
A few members of the public expressed support for moving on from changing clocks, but all spoke in favor of permanent standard time and opposed McCay’s bill.
“Everybody loves summer. It’s warm and pleasant, but this bill cannot make winter become summer,” said Jay Pea, president of the nonprofit Save Standard Time. “It actually — just by turning our clocks forward an hour — it makes us go to work early and get up early.”
Pea pointed out that on permanent daylight saving time, the committee hearing would have been held before the sun came up at around 8:30 a.m. He argued that darker mornings would result in more road collisions and people being struck by cars.
Alta Ski Area President Mike Maughan argued against SB175, saying the later sunrise in the winter would shorten the ski day by pushing back the window for completing avalanche control work each morning.
“We don’t like the changing back and forth, but we prefer from an industry standpoint, please consider the impact it would have on any business that uses daylight in the winter for their operations,” he said. “This would impact and change the workday and push people to work later.”