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Saving daylight: Lawmakers aim to have Washington ‘fall back’ one last time

One final "fall back" in Washington? (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

During the last legislative session, Washington passed a bill to permanently keep the state in Daylight Saving Time. So why are we still rolling our clocks back at 2 a.m. on Nov. 3?

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There were a few bills this past legislative session that would have kept us on one time or another all year long. In the end, it was Washington State Democratic Rep. Marcus Riccelli’s bill that made it to the governor’s desk.

Riccelli’s bill moves Washington to permanent Daylight Saving Time — that means the sun rises later and sets later, giving us extra daylight in the afternoon like we do in summer. Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill into law in May, and Riccelli had initially hoped we could avoid having to fall back in November.

“We want to ditch the switch and end this annoying practice, [but] we’re not where we want to be,” said Riccelli.

In order for Washington to remain on Daylight Saving Time for good, one of two things needs to occur: U.S. Congress passes legislation granting the state a federal waiver, or the U.S. Secretary of Transportation approves the move himself.

Riccelli suspects the latter of the two options is the most viable, given the speed (or lack there of) legislation tends to move at in Congress.

Meanwhile, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has a bill in Congress proposing the entire country adopt year-round Daylight Saving Time.

While that inches its way though the U.S. Senate, Washington remains in a holding pattern with its own legislation.

What needs to happen?

When it comes to granting federal waivers to individual states, a state will need to prove that local commerce with neighboring states won’t be affected. Washington’s case is particularly strong, with both Oregon and Nevada passing their own Daylight Saving Time bills, British Columbia considering a similar move, and Idaho passing a resolution saying it would support Washington’s switch.

The cherry on top: California continues to weigh its own similar legislation.

“I think there’s plenty of interest in our time zone to get this done,” said Riccelli.

California lawmakers are expected to take their own bill back up when they get back for the second half of their session in January. But there has also been some hesitation among some lawmakers there, who think switching to permanent standard time is the better option. Because of that, the bill’s sponsor is taking time to meet with constituents before session starts.

Why not standard time?

The benefit of staying on standard time is that it doesn’t require federal approval. That said, Riccelli argues that permanent Daylight Saving Time is far more beneficial.

“Just from an overall health care perspective, it seems to me that permanent Daylight Saving Time makes more sense,” he described.

During the process to get Washington’s legislation passed, University of Washington law professor Steve Calandrillo outlined a laundry list of benefits for staying on DST.

That includes a claim that the evening rush hour is twice as deadly as the morning rush hour.

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“Forty-three lives would be saved every single year by going to permanent daylight saving time,” he told the Legislature back in April.

Calandrillo also pointed to data indicating that staying in Daylight Saving Time would actually reduce crime.

“Criminals like to work in darkness — they are late to bed and late to rise, and so my goal is to take an hour of criminals’ work day,” he said.

So, where does all that leave us as far as actually ditching the switch?

“I’m hoping that we will be able to fall back, switch to permanent Daylight Saving Time [next March], and never switch our clocks again after that,” Rep. Riccelli vowed. “By this time next year, my goal is that we are not switching our clocks.”

Other states and territories that currently observe Daylight Saving Time year-round include American Samoa, Guam, the Minor Outlying Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Both Hawaii and Arizona (with the exception of tribal lands) observe standard time year-round.

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