Before you throw stones, think about it for a minute. We wouldn’t want each state to coin its own money or launch its own independent army. We learned 90 years ago that it’s better to let the FBI chase bank robbers across state lines than for states to chase them up to the line but no farther. And although it was controversial when construction started in the 1950s, we wouldn’t have much of an interstate highway system today if we had relied on states alone to plan it out.
Utah lawmakers are again considering a bill that would save us all from having to change our clocks twice a year, from daylight saving to standard time and back again. Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, is sponsoring a bill that would put Utah on daylight saving time, permanently.
I know, you’ve heard this one before. Bills like these pop up once a session, then usually die in a committee after golfers, farmers or some other organized group raises a fuss.
Well, Harper’s version is still alive, maybe because it is riddled with “ifs.” The bill would become law only if at least four other Western states pass something similar and only if Congress passes a law that allows it. Under current federal law, a state may decide to stay on standard time permanently, but not daylight saving.
Whenever this comes up, someone invariably makes an argument about economic development. You don’t want your state to be the weirdo — the one that’s an hour ahead of the state to its east. Airlines, convention planners and New Year’s Eve revelers would shun you, the thinking goes. National corporations would have trouble scheduling conference calls with their office in your state. You might accidentally wake grandma when calling to wish her happy birthday. The list goes on.
We give Arizona a pass. Its permanent standard time status means it keeps jumping in and out of the Pacific Time Zone which, while still confusing, doesn’t seem too out of line. Plus, who needs sunnier evenings in Phoenix? Hawaii gets a pass because it’s out in the middle of the ocean.
But, according to Harper’s count, 26 states now are considering doing away with the time change, in various forms. Not every state is having luck with this. South Dakota’s legislature just defeated the idea. However, six states already have passed some sort of bill, contingent on Congress.
And, perhaps most important of all, other nations are doing away with the change. The European Union now makes it optional, and Brazil has decided to stay on standard time forever. Russia, Turkey and Morocco no longer change.
This may be good news, but you can almost feel the confusion growing. Why add to it?
I have nothing against Harper’s bill. After all, there is a limit to what a state lawmaker can propose, given the current restraints from Washington.
But when I pressed him on Monday, he acknowledged that the four Western states needed for his bill to take effect don’t necessarily have to border Utah. His goal is for the state to not be a horological island, so to speak. He’s working with lawmakers in neighboring states to get them onboard.
But still, Utah could end up two hours ahead of Nevada and an hour ahead of Colorado part of the year.
Two bills are pending in Washington. One, sponsored by Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, would give states the option of keeping the current system, or adopting either permanent daylight saving or standard time. The other, sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., would lift the heavy hand of the federal government and pronounce all U.S. time zones to be on permanent daylight saving time, period.
Rubio’s idea makes the most sense. It would make time reliable and predictable from coast to coast.
Are there more important matters for both Congress and the Utah Legislature to consider? Of course. This problem matters only two excruciating weeks out of each year.
But it’s precisely because it’s both so relatively unimportant and periodically annoying that it ought to be easily solved.
The original need for a time change doesn’t seem to apply to the 21st century. We don’t save much energy that way. And a permanent daylight saving time would make golfers and farmers happy.
Utah should pass Harper’s bill just to join other states in letting Washington know how we feel. Then it’s up to Congress to impose a one-size-for-all time structure that eliminates confusion.