OLYMPIA – On the darkest day of the year in Spokane, the sun sets around 4 p.m. If state Rep. Marcus Riccelli has his way, that evening and all others in Pacific Standard Time would have one more hour of light at night.
Riccelli, D-Spokane, is sponsoring a bill to put Washington on Daylight Saving Time permanently. He called the twice-a-year clock change “archaic” at a hearing of the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee this week.
“I want to bring the light. I want to ditch the switch,” Riccelli said.
But states cannot extend daylight saving beyond the eight months allowed by the federal government without an act of Congress.
The bill would ask Washington voters to approve the change at the next general election. The referendum clause is intended to show overwhelming support for the idea, and continue momentum for change along the West Coast, Riccelli said.
California voters passed an initiative in 2018 calling for year-round Daylight Saving Time. Oregon currently has a bill that would allow voters to decide if they want to adopt a permanent time.
Florida’s Legislature passed a bill in 2018, and Sen. Marco Rubio has introduced two bills in Congress, but neither has had a committee hearing.
Clock changes disrupt sleeping patterns, Caitlin Lang-Perez of the Washington State Board of Health told the committee. Her review cited studies that heart attacks and strokes increase in the days following a time switch.
“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.
Despite concerns about the dangers of children going to school in the dark, Lang-Perez said research shows fatal accidents involving children were more likely to happen in the late afternoon, not the morning.
Kevin Morrison, Spokane Public Schools acting director of campus safety, transportation and risk management, said switching to Daylight Saving Time year-round could be beneficial.
“As to the safety aspect for our students, most research that I have seen shows a very minimal – but statistically relevant – measure of decreased auto-pedestrian accidents as well as lower rate of crime.”
“From a purely statistical standpoint it appears to provide a slightly safer environment for both auto/bus transportation and pedestrians,” he said.
Daylight saving advocates have long touted the conservation potential of having daylight extend later in the day, but a 2008 study from the Department of Energy found total energy savings were only 0.03 percent.
Daylight Saving Time began in the United States as a way to save energy during World War I. The 1918 law set clocks ahead an hour from March 31 to Oct. 27, and created national standard time zones. But Daylight Saving Time was unpopular and repealed in 1919.
In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called for year-round Daylight Saving Time to save energy during World War II. The practice stopped after the war, and individual states and cities were allowed to enact daylight saving regulations.
Washington voters rejected daylight saving initiatives in 1952 and 1954 but approved one in 1960 for the period from the last Sunday of April to the last Sunday of September. In 1963, that was extended to the last Sunday in October.
Congress passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966, which set a federal regulation for when daylight saving could be in place. States were not required to observe Daylight Saving Time – Arizona, Hawaii and several territories currently don’t – but they could not extend daylight saving beyond the given period.
Year-round Daylight Saving Time was instituted for 11 months in 1973 by President Richard Nixon to save energy during the OPEC-backed oil embargo.
The time frame was extended in 1986 and the current system, in which it extends from the second Sunday of March to the first Sunday of November, was established in 2007.
A Senate bill would also ask Congress to allow Washington to go on year-round Daylight Saving Time, but without requiring voter approval. It’s scheduled for a committee hearing Friday.