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Why Utahns will still have to change their clocks this weekend

People begin to fill the gallery above the clock in the House of Representatives during a break at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020.

(Steve Griffin, KSL)

Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — On March 28, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill to end the ritual of switching the clocks back and forth. It was now law: Utah was to remain on daylight saving time permanently. It was a win for the night owls of the state (or at least the people that prefer longer evenings), but it will probably be some time before they can take a victory lap.

Because even with the bill signed, Utahns will still be "falling back" again come Sunday at 2 a.m.

SB59 keeps Utah on daylight saving time — or "the summer schedule," as Utah lawmakers call it — only if two provisions are met: Congress has to first allow it, and four other Western states must join Utah in wanting to stick to longer nights throughout the year.

So while the bill has passed through the Utah Legislature and was signed by the governor, it could take years, if not decades for the new schedule to be implemented.

Let's look at what needs to happen to stop the clock switching.

Getting federal approval

Currently, the Uniform Time Act only allows states to permanently keep their clocks on standard time (something Utah's southern neighbor Arizona does). Sticking to the daylight saving time is not an option — not that lawmakers haven't tried to make it one.

In 2019, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, introduced the Sunshine Protection Act — a bill that would make daylight saving time the new standard time. Even with bipartisan support, it hasn't gotten too far. Rubio introduced a pandemic version of the bill in September that would eliminate the switch to standard time for this year only, but, as you know, we will all still be switching our clocks on Sunday.

Some states have proposed a work-around to the Uniform Time Act. Some in New England have proposed a move from the Eastern Time Zone to the Atlantic Time Zone. In Washington state, legislators have proposed moving to year-round Mountain Standard Time if Congress doesn't authorize a permanent move to daylight saving time.

The other Western states

Let's pretend Congress has made it so states can move toward daylight saving time for good, how close would Utah be to being able to spring forward permanently?

SB59 identifies the other Western states as Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming. So Utah needs four of those to join them in daylight saving land.

Of those states, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming have passed bills that allow for a switch to be made in some capacity. That's four — so fantastic, right? If only it were that simple. Like Utah's law, the other state's bills also have their own provisions.

For Oregon's bill to take effect, both Washington and California have to make the change as well. Idaho's bill only includes the portions of the state that are in the Pacific Time Zone, and only when Washington moves to daylight saving time. A bill for Idaho's Mountain time zone residents to follow Utah's lead failed to pass. Wyoming will also need four Western states to follow suit, but they are different than Utah's (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah). Washington, though, is only waiting for Congress to make it legal.

As of now, it's one state for sure joining — but it may be closer than that. California voters had voted for a proposition to make the summer schedule permanent (it died at the legislature level) and Nevada has urged Congress to allow its lawmakers to make the switch, too.

Here's a look at where the other Western states are at on the issue:

Arizona: The state has observed permanent standard time since 1968 and will likely remain there for the foreseeable future.

California: In 2018, a proposition passed allowing the California State Legislature to make daylight saving time the permanent time of the state. However, according to Assemblyman Kansen Chu (D-San Jose) who sponsored the proposition, the California State Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications did not bring the proposition up for a vote and thus it died.

Colorado: A 2020 bill that would have daylight saving time as the official time year-round failed.

Idaho: A bill to allow the cities which are in the Pacific Time Zone to go to daylight saving time once Washington state does has passed. A bill to follow Utah's lead, however, failed.

Montana: In 2019, a bill that would have asked voters to eliminate daylight saving time was struck down by a senate panel.

Nevada: In 2015, the Nevada Senate approved an Assembly Joint Resolution urging Congress to let Nevada set its clocks to daylight saving time.

New Mexico: In 2019, the New Mexico Senate passed a bill to permanently keep the state on daylight saving time. However, at the same time, the New Mexico House of Representatives passed a bill to end daylight saving time. It's not surprising then that a 2020 bill that would have, among other things, made the change to daylight saving permanent failed.

Oregon: In 2019, Oregon passed a bill to remain on daylight saving time permanently. It will take effect the first November after both Washington and California do the same (and with congressional approval of course).

Washington: In 2019, Washington passed a bill to make daylight saving time the official time of the state as soon as Congress permits it.

Wyoming: The state has established daylight saving time as the official time year-round once Congress authorizes it and at least four Western states (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming) do as well.

So, now it's a waiting game, and Utahns, even after a bill being signed into law, will still be changing their clocks come Sunday.


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