A rural Yakima lawmaker’s push to make daylight saving time permanent in Washington is gaining momentum thanks to an unexpected boost from a popular comedian.
Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Yakima, let John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” show make his case when he played a “How Is This Still A Thing” segment about daylight saving time for his fellow lawmakers during a hearing in Olympia Wednesday.
In the segment, the narrator skewers the popular notion that daylight time helps farmers. In reality, Germany created it to save fuel during World War I, leading to the semi-annual rite of changing clocks in the spring and fall.
Feeling groggy? Blame the Kaiser, not farmers, it says.
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“Cows don’t care what time it is, because they’re cows and cows are idiots,” it intones.
By the time it ended, even skeptics were laughing.
Three competing bills
The Washington Legislature is considering three bills, including two sponsored by Honeyford, that generally would put Washington state on permanent daylight time.
One version would let voters decide via a statewide ballot. The others leave it to the Legislature to work out the details.
The Senate Committee on State Government, Tribal Relations and Elections took no action at Wednesday’s hearing but passed one version along to the rules committee on Thursday, with a “do pass” recommendation.
But Washington is one of many states wrestling with the increasingly unpopular practice of shifting time twice a year. The federal Uniform Time Act allows states to go on permanent standard time, but not permanent daylight time. For the latter, states have to seek federal approval.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, introduced bills in Congress to allow states to make their own call or, in the alternative, to make daylight time standard for the nation after his state’s Legislature voted to make daylight time permanent.
In November, California voters approved an initiative to begin the process of putting their state on daylight time year-round. A handful of other states have weighed in as well.
Other states look to California vote
The bills in Washington and companion versions in Oregon would add the Pacific Northwest to the conversation. The Idaho Legislature is considering a bill to put the state on permanent standard time. Idaho is split between the Pacific and Mountain time zones.
Honeyford previously attempted to put Washington on permanent standard time, but backed off when he met resistance. Today, Honeyford said feedback is running 15-to-1 in favor of shifting daylight to the evening hours.
“People want daylight saving time to mow their lawn or kick their dog or whatever,” he said.
Honeyford is motivated by research that shows changing the time negatively affects students, causes accidents and leads to more injuries in the workplace.
Steve Calandrillo, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law, has written about the issue. Wednesday, he said year-round daylight time is a safety issue, not a political one. He cited research that 343 lives would be saved annually with the change.
“Darkness kills,” he said. Car-on-car and car-on-pedestrian collisions increased during the dark evening hours, when there is more alcohol being consumed and more children out playing.
Shifting daylight to the evening would curtail crime too, he said.
“My goal is to take an hour out of the criminal’s work day,” he said.
Problem for scientists
Victor Morris, an earth scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, testified remotely that changing clocks twice a year creates problems for scientists. Incorrect time stamps can lead to gaps in data collection, leading to inconvenience and confusion.
Morris said he would prefer to make standard time the law of the land.
One opponent said Washington needn’t follow California’s lead on time. MC Halvorsen, described as a concerned citizen, said she supports changing the time in the spring and fall in the northern states to balance daylight throughout the year and protect school children from early morning darkness.
“I don’t think we should go by what some other state says,” she said.
Track Senate Bills 5139, 5140 and 5250 online at app.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/
The 2019 session convened Jan. 14 and ends April 28. Friday is the cutoff day for bills to pass out of committee.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to add Thursday’s vote to pass Senate Bill 5139 to the Senate Rules committee with a “do pass” vote. The vote occurred a day after the initial story published.