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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah Senate committee voted 4-1 to advance a bill Thursday that would shift Utah to daylight saving time year-round, ending the need to set clocks ahead every spring before turning them back every fall, as long as Congress allows it and surrounding states do the same.
The sponsor of SB59, Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, told members of the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee that 26 states around the country are looking at similar legislation that wouldn’t do away with the biannual time change unless neighboring states do, too.
Harper’s bill would requires at least four of the following states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington or Wyoming — to also adopt daylight saving time year-round “so we are not an island on our own.”
The bill spells out that Congress has to act, too, since the only option states now have if they want to “ditch the switch” is to go on standard time year-round, a choice made by Arizona and Hawaii. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is seeking to put all states on daylight saving time with his proposed, “Sunshine Protection Act.”
The 2019 Utah Legislature backed a bill introduced the previous year by U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, that would allow each state to decide whether to keep the current biannual time change system or adopt either standard or daylight saving time.
The committee’s chairman, Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, pointed out that unless Congress and other states take action, “this bill really doesn’t do anything. But if we pass it, does that mean I stop hearing about daylight saving time every single legislative session? OK, I’m in.”
Harper said changing clocks twice a year costs the state “in economic viability and confusion and health impacts.”
Utah is currently on standard time. Daylight saving time, intended to add an extra hour of daylight during the longest days of the year, is set to begin at 2 a.m. on March 8 and end on Nov. 1.
Utah Medical Association CEO Michelle McOmber told the committee that doctors support the bill.
“This is a medical issue,” McOmber said. “It significantly impacts health.”
She said she could go “on and on” about the adverse effects doctors see as a result of time changes, including more heart attacks, disruptions in sleep patterns, an increase in the rate of spontaneous pregnancy loss in in-vitro fertilization patients and additional depressive episodes.
But Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, the only committee member to vote against sending the bill to the Senate floor, asked whether travel across time zones wouldn’t have the same effects. Told by McOmber that travel also impacts health, he said, “it seems weird to me we wouldn’t have massive heart attack issues on planes every day, then.”
George Chapman, a community activist who ran for Salt Lake City mayor, told the committee he opposes the bill because he believes making the change to daylight saving time year-round could jeopardize the area’s standing as the center of the Mountain West’s transportation network if some states in the region don’t.
Harper said after the hearing that the issue usually generates a mixed response.
“A lot of people either don’t care about the issue or they have strong opinions and they’re in camps — let’s continue to change, let’s go to standard time, let’s go to daylight saving time,” he said. “But this is a positive step where we’re saying Utah is leading the way in the country on this.”