The NCSL Blog


By Jim Reed

As we face the loss of an hour of time as we “spring forward” with our clocks this weekend, the angst surrounding this twice-annual ritual of clock-changing has resulted in a simmering debate in state legislatures as to the efficacy of daylight saving time (DST).

Train rushing toward Big Ben. Credit: National Geographic.Notwithstanding that “smart” clocks and other devices now reset themselves automatically, 13 states are considering 22 bills or resolutions related to daylight saving time in 2016.

No consensus exists as to which way to go: 12 of the bills would establish permanent standard time, while nine of them would create permanent daylight saving time. It’s worth noting that federal law allows a state to exempt itself from observing daylight saving time, upon action by the state legislature to do so, but does not allow the permanent observance of DST.

A similar number of bills was introduced in 2015, again split between daylight time go/no-go. No changes have been made, as none of the proposals have become law, though several have passed one chamber.

The United States had daylight saving time as early as 1918, with the current federal policy being enacted in 1966, as the Uniform Time Act.

Several changes occurred along the way, mostly changing the dates of starting and ceasing DST. The current enactment was part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The U.S. Department of Transportation is the federal agency responsible for overseeing DST and the country’s time zones.

All states but Hawaii and Arizona (except for the Navajo Nation) observe DST. The territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and then U.S. Virgin Islands also do not observe DST. National Geographic examines the strange and surprising history of DST.

The policy debate has many angles. Originally enacted as a way to save energy by giving more daylight in the evening hours, some studies have questioned the degree of energy savings. Other studies have shown negative impacts on people’s health and circadian rhythms due to time changes as well as a higher number of car crashes and workplace injuries in the days after a time change.

The U.S. Department of Transportation website states that DST saves energy, saves lives and prevents traffic injuries and it reduces crime, since people tend to be out and about more in daylight hours as opposed to night when most crimes are committed.

In 2016, states with proposed bills that would establish permanent DST are California, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Washington. States that are considering permanent standard time are Alaska, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Additional states that had bills in 2015 for permanent DST were Alabama, New Mexico and Nevada, while Texas, Oregon and Utah debated permanent standard time bills in 2015. Again, none have passed.

The web is rife with sites extolling both sides of the debate. One of the more humorous takes on the down side of clock-changing is found here in this fictitious movie trailer entitled Saving Daylight.

Jim Reed directs NCSL’s Environment, Energy and Transportation Group.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.