HB66 would gauge public opinion on daylight saving time

Emily Larson
Proposed legislation would gauge whether Utah voters would like to switch from daylight saving time to a year-round schedule. (Emily Larson)

Rep. Marsha Judkins, R-Provo, is sponsoring a bill for the current legislative session that would see whether Utah residents want to continue observing daylight saving time.

If HB66 passes, a two-part, non-binding question will be added to the November 2020 ballot. The first part of the question would gauge the public’s preferences.

Voters would have four choices: remain on daylight saving time year-round, switch to standard time year-round, indicate equal preference between options one and two or change nothing.

The second question would ask voters if, in the event the state does not choose their preferred option, they would support the other option or prefer to continue observing daylight saving time.

“Some people have a preference,” Judkins said. “Like me, I would like to stay on standard time year-round, but I would prefer going to daylight saving time year-round as long as we didn’t have to change our clocks.”

Regardless of the vote’s results, the majority response would not become law — at least not immediately. The question would aim to gauge where the public stands on daylight saving time.

Judkins said the question is not her end goal, but a starting point for a longer-term plan to switch Utah’s timetable.

“We’d take all the data that we could gather and of course, this non-binding question would be a large part of that, and then the Legislature would make their best decision based on that data,” Judkins said.

On both sides of the daylight saving time debate, citizens have concerns.

Judkins said many people who care about the issue have contacted her, including people in tourism, nurses who work long shifts and families with disabled children. To some, changing the clocks is an inconvenience; to others, it is a problem that makes a real difference in their lives.

“I get some emails, ‘Why are you dealing with such a trivial issue?’” Judkins said. “But it’s really not trivial to a lot of people.”

According to Judkins, some Utah farmers and ranchers work day jobs to support their farming or ranching. For them, later sunsets are more convenient because coming home when it is still light makes caring for livestock easier.

Judkins said it is also more dangerous for school children to be walking, waiting for the school bus or driving to school when it is dark in the mornings.

“There’s a lot, a lot, of things that go on with this,” Judkins said. “That’s why I’m doing it.”

Abby Anderson, a junior studying nursing, grew up in Mesa where standard time — meaning earlier sunrises and sunsets — is observed year-round.

When she moved to Utah for her freshman year at BYU, she and her friends were eager to experience the hour repeating itself for the first time. However, she described daylight saving time as “anticlimactic.”

“I mean it was a cool notion, getting an extra hour of sleep and all,” Anderson said. “But honestly, the difference didn’t seem to impact my daily schedule or anything.”

Anderson said she was not sure if she had a preference, but admitted she found changing the clocks to be confusing.

“It is also weird to be at a different time than my family. I have called and woken them up too many times to count,” Anderson said. “I guess because I haven’t noticed any benefits with daylight saving in my life, it has become more of inconvenience than anything.”

Anderson said she would vote to remain on a year-round schedule in Utah if given the chance.

“I don’t mind daylight saving and getting rid of it isn’t something I am overtly passionate about,” she said. “But because I haven’t reaped any benefits from it, it makes more sense to me to do away with it.”

Carly Cottrell grew up with daylight saving time, but recently moved from Utah to Arizona for work. She said it is confusing for her family and friends, who can never remember which time zone she is in.

“Half of the year we are the same as Utah, the other half we are the same as California,” Cottrell said.

Still, she says she found the early darkness during Utah winters “depressing” and doesn’t think daylight saving time is necessary anymore.

Last year, California and Florida both passed laws to stay on daylight saving time year-round and are waiting on a waiver from the federal government before they can implement them, according to Judkins. She said there is the chance other states will also move to year-round schedules.

“We’ve also been contacted by several states around us that would like to stop changing their clocks too and possibly stay on daylight saving time year-round, as long as there’s a group of states that are willing to do it,” Judkins said.

HB66 will be considered during the 2019 legislative session, which began on Jan. 28 and will conclude March 14.

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