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Yay or nay on permanent daylight saving time? You may get to vote on it

A loosely coordinated effort is gaining steam to get all West Coast states to synchronize their watches to year-round daylight saving time.
Henrique Simplicio
Flickr photo
A loosely coordinated effort is gaining steam to get all West Coast states to synchronize their clocks to year-round daylight saving time.

Oregon and Washington voters could get a say at the next general election on whether to adopt daylight saving time year-round — and thereby abolish the twice-yearly clock changes.
A loosely coordinated effort is gaining steam to get all West Coast states to synchronize their watches to year-round daylight saving time. This past November, 60 percent of California voters approved Proposition 7, a ballot initiative to make daylight saving time permanent. This month, a Republican state senator from Oregon and a Democratic lawmaker from Washington each introduced bipartisan measures to put the same question to their states' voters.

"I want to bring the light. I want to ditch the switch," said state Rep. Marcus Riccelli of Spokane. "I want us to look at the health angle that changing our clocks twice a year can throw off our natural body rhythms."

Riccelli told fellow legislators who are reviewing his proposal that he — and many constituents who contacted him — value pushing the onset of darkness later into winter afternoons. They accept that, in exchange, sunrises would come later on winter mornings than they do now.

Riccelli's bill includes a referendum clause, meaning that it wouldn't become law unless Washington voters approve it in the next general election. Year-round daylight saving time also needs a congressional OK.

The referendum, Riccelli said, would "show the overwhelming support for this and kind of pump up our congressional delegation to move this forward." 

The only person to raise objections during the proposal's initial hearing in front of the House State Government Committee was retiree Jim Heitzman of Olympia.

"I'm concerned about children getting to school in the pitch black," Heitzman testified. "They won't be alert until sunrise for an additional month and three weeks."

Policy analyst Caitlin Lang-Perez of the Washington State Board of Health shared a "Health Impact Review" with the committee that summarized the medical literature on time switches. Multiple studies found that the number of heart attacks and strokes increased in the days immediately following the spring and fall time switches, she said. 

"Overall, we found strong evidence that implementing year-round daylight saving time would likely improve health outcomes, particularly on days that would immediately follow the spring and fall transitions," Lang-Perez said.

A separate measure pending in the Washington State Senate would make daylight saving time permanent without going to a vote of the people.

Earlier this month, Republican state Sen. Kim Thatcher of Keizer introduced a measure in the Oregon Legislature to move to permanent daylight saving time. As in the Evergreen State, Thatcher's measure includes a referendum clause to wait for the approval of Oregon voters at the next general election. The bipartisan Oregon legislation has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing.

If permanent daylight saving time passes through the state legislatures in Olympia, Salem and Sacramento, all three proposals will still need an act of Congress to take effect. States can adopt year-round standard time, but the federal Uniform Time Act does not currently allow for year-round daylight time.

The Montana and New Mexico legislatures this winter are also considering measures to abolish the twice-yearly time change. A non-binding resolution approved by the 2018 Idaho Legislature signaled that Idaho officials are paying close attention to what their neighbors do and would consider following suit.

Two states — Arizona and Hawaii — already dispense with the biannual time change by staying on standard time year-round.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.