By Jim Reed
As the United States once again prepares to spring forward into another season of extra daylight, the debate over the biannual clock-changing exercise is taking place in at least 26 state legislatures this year, the most since NCSL began tracking the topic five years ago.
In 2019, state legislators have introduced 46 bills (not counting six identical companion bills) in 26 states proposing to make permanent either standard time or daylight saving (DST) time. Last year, 40 bills were introduced in 25 states. The number of states, on average, considering such legislation in 2015-2017 was 16. Most introduced legislation this year is still pending, and several bills have failed.
Though the trend is for more states to examine the topic, no bills have passed in recent years that have resulted in substantive change, however, California and Florida are poised to change to permanent daylight saving time should federal law change. Full-time DST is not allowed by federal law and would require an act of Congress to make a change.
Federal law allows states the option of staying on standard time and not switching to DST. Currently, Hawaii and Arizona (except for the Navajo Nation) and several U.S territories opt out of DST.
It would seem that the main gripe of proponents on both sides is the act of time switching itself, as grouchy and sleep-deprived motorists, workers and students will no doubt attest this coming week. But if springing forward and falling back is to cease, what is the preferred alternative? Standard time or daylight time? A reading of the bills in play in the states reveals a split decision.
As was the case in prior years, the proposed legislation falls roughly 50-50 into favoring full-time standard or full-time DST. The two divergent approaches to stopping the clock change, often both introduced in the same state, grinds any legislative progress to a halt, as consensus has not emerged.
2019 Introduced State Legislation Summary:
- Adopt permanent DST, if federally authorized: Iowa, Maine, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming.
- Adopt permanent standard time: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas.
- Bills to adopt both approaches: Minnesota, Mississippi and New Mexico.
- Time zone clarification: Indiana.
- Proposed study of the issue: New York and Virginia.
This year Maine and Wyoming are considering bills to ask the U.S. Department of Transportation to move them into the next time zone to the east, effectively enacting permanent daylight time. Each would be contingent on a certain number of adjacent states enacting the same requirement. A House joint resolution in Utah would ask the voters in November their opinions on the issues.
Texas is again debating the topic with bills in each house to do away with DST. The conversation is complicated in Texas and elsewhere due to the existence of two time zones in the state. Stay tuned as the debates across state legislatures continue in 2019 and beyond.
Jim Reed directs NCSL's Environment, Energy and Transportation Program.