The NCSL Blog


By James B. Reed

American workers may be grumpy this week after losing an hour of sleep over the weekend because of the ritual of clock-changing to conform to daylight saving time (DST).

SunsetHappily, smart clocks and other devices now reset themselves automatically, so we don’t have the excuse of forgetting.

But in one-third of the states, legislators are debating the wisdom of switching back and forth from DST.

At least 16 states in 2017 are considering 24 bills or resolutions related to proposed changes to DST. Problems associated with switching back and forth between the time schemes seems to be the biggest concern. As an example, a Wyoming bill that did not pass stated, “The biannual change of time between Mountain Standard Time and Mountain Daylight Time is disruptive to commerce and to the daily schedules of the residents of the state of Wyoming.”

However, no consensus exists as to which way to go. In fact, it’s an even split as 12 of the bills would establish permanent standard time, while the other 12 would petition for or otherwise seek to create permanent DST.

It should be noted that federal law allows a state to exempt itself from observing DST, upon action by the state legislature to do so, but does not allow the permanent observance of DST. As a work-around to achieve the same end, legislation in at least four states this year seeks to move the state into the next time zone to the east, including Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire and Wyoming.

So far, only a resolution in New Jersey has passed that asks the federal government to extend DST until after the state’s general election. A similar number of bills was introduced in 2016, again split, more or less, between the two approaches. None of the proposals have become law.

According to The Week, the idea of DST was originally proposed by a New Zealand postal worker named George Vernon Hudson who liked to hunt insects and wanted more daylight hours after work to do so. Current U.S. policy regarding DST dates to the 1966 Uniform Time Act, which made uniform a previous patchwork of various state and local observances.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 extended DST for an additional four weeks, for a total of eight months. The U.S. Department of Transportation is the federal agency responsible for overseeing DST and the country’s time zones.

All the U.S. 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 the U.S. Virgin Islands opt out of DST.

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

But it appears to be good for commerce. A recent study by the JP Morgan Chase Institute found an increase of 0.9 percent in credit and debit card spending in Los Angeles right after DST starts in the spring and a drop of 3.5 percent when DST ends in the fall.

In 2017, states with proposed bills that would establish some variation of permanent DST include Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi and Wyoming. States that are considering permanent standard time are California, Connecticut, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Again, none have passed.

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.