By Steve Guntli
If the state legislature passes a new bill, the yearly ritual of springing forward and falling back could be a thing of the past.
Representative Elizabeth Scott (R-Monroe) is the author and primary sponsor of House Bill 1479, which would drop Daylight Saving Time (DST) in Washington. Scott said she first became aware of the issue when constituents in her district brought it to her attention.
“People in my district were annoyed about having to change their clocks, and I promised I’d look into it,” she said. “The more I researched, the more I found that there are some serious health problems associated with DST.”
DST can result in sleep deprivation by disrupting people’s circadian rhythms, or internal clock, according to the October 2013 issue of Current Biology magazine. Scott said other studies have shown the loss of sleep associated with DST can contribute to car wrecks, workplace accidents and depression. Studies have also shown a 5–10 percent increase in heart attacks, according to Scott.
Even the process of resetting clocks can lead to a drop in productivity.
“I have an apple farmer in my district who says it sometimes takes half a day for him to go around and reset all the clocks in his equipment,” Scott said.
If the bill passes, Washington would be the third state in the union to opt out of DST, after Arizona and Hawaii. The bill received a hearing before the state government committee but has not yet come up for a vote in the legislature. If enacted, the bill would take effect on January 16, 2016.
“If this gets voted through, we’ll set our clocks back in November like usual and just leave it there,” Scott said.
Representative Sam Hunt (D-Olympia), chair of the state government committee, is opposed to the bill. Hunt claims dropping DST when so many other states use it would cause disruption for travelers and interstate commerce.
“With other states keeping it, I think it would create unnecessary disruptions,” Hunt said.
Hunt helped defeat a similar bill back in 2011.
According to the website TimeZoneReport.com, similar legislature is pending in five other states: Alaska, Oregon, Texas, Utah and South Dakota. Oregon is leaving it up to the voters and has set a referendum for the measure this fall. If enacted, Oregon would drop DST by 2021.
Another piece of legislation on the table in Washington would have the similar yet opposite effect of imposing Daylight Saving Time year-round. Representative Joe Schmick (R-Colfax) has sent a request to the federal government to consider his proposal. Under U.S. law, states can opt out of recognizing DST if they choose, but cannot opt out of standard time.
Scott said she’s reached out to Schmick and he has agreed to support her bill if it goes through.
Congress introduced Daylight Saving Time at the beginning of World War I. It was originally adopted during wartime in order to save energy. The policy was
adopted nationwide in 1966. Washington was the 15th state to enact DST, passing the vote only by
a narrow margin, 51.7 percent, in 1960.
A common misconception is that DST was enacted to benefit farmers, Scott said.
“The first thing I did was contact farmers from Skagit and Snohomish counties, which I represent, and they said they didn’t care one way or the other,” she said. “Even the Washington State Farm Bureau had no opinion. It’s such a misconception that Daylight Saving Time is for farmers. In fact, when it was first introduced, farmers were the ones most opposed to it.”
Most of North America and Europe use DST, while much of Asia and Africa do not. According to the Vancouver Sun, the British Columbia government has no
intention of dropping DST, regardless of what Washington decides. All Canadian provinces observe DST with the exception of most of Saskatchewan which stays
on Central Standard Time, meaning it effectively observes DST year-round.