MYNORTHWEST POLITICS

Out of time: Push for permanent standard time in WA fails to clear legislature

Feb 2, 2024, 4:16 PM

standard time permanent...

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Washington will stick with its “spring forward” schedule again after a bill aiming to switch to standard time permanently failed in the legislature for the second year in a row.

Senate Bill 5795, backed by a bipartisan group of 13 lawmakers, failed to make the cutoff to get voted out of committee earlier this week.

If it had passed, Washington would have fallen back this November, then after that, remained in standard time permanently — joining Arizona and Hawaii as the only states to do so.

More from WA legislature: Could a 10-cent bottle deposit system be in the state’s future?

On permanent standard time, Washington would still have 4 p.m. sunsets in the winter, but would lose the 10 p.m. sunsets in the summer. Sunrises in June would be close to 4 a.m.

This isn’t the first time the legislature has tried to end the annual clock switches. Lawmakers passed a bill in 2019 that was the opposite of this one — it would have kept the state in daylight saving time permanently. That would mean we would not “fall back” in November — preserving 5 p.m. sunsets throughout the winter. But on the flip side, the sun would not rise until almost 9 a.m. in December.

But for that bill to take effect, the state still needs a federal waiver from Congress. That has been slow to arrive in the years since Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill into law—leaving the Evergreen State stuck in a holding pattern.

The switch to standard time doesn’t require federal approval. The bill’s primary sponsors, Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, and Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, said that makes it the better option because there’s no time to waste. When introducing the bill in December ahead of the session, they argued that “ditching the switch” is about protecting people’s health.

“Research has shown that changing to and from daylight saving time twice per year has negative impacts on public health, increases traffic accidents and crime, disrupts agriculture scheduling and hinders economic growth,” the bill read.

It also cited a University of Washington (UW) study that has linked the clock switching to a higher risk of heart attacks, more workplace injuries and increased suicide rates.

The issue has divided Washingtonians, some of whom testified at the bill’s initial Senate Committee meeting earlier this month.

“Standard Time is the real-time defined by the sun’s position in the sky. It is the honest time; it is the natural time. Some call it ‘God’s clock’ for connection to nature,” Jay Pea, the president of the nonprofit Save Standard Time, said.

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UW professor and sleep medicine specialist Vishesh Kapur echoed that sentiment.

“We have an internal biological clock that is set by sunlight for optimal health,” Kapoor said. “Our behaviors such as sleep work, physical activity, and eating should align with that internal clock. This alignment occurs when we follow standard time.”

But others, including fellow UW professors Steve Calandrillo and Laura Prugh, disagreed.

“If you pass this bill, the sunrise is going to be at 4 a.m. in June in Seattle,” Calandrillo told lawmakers. “Darkness kills and darkness is two to three times more fatal at 5 p.m. than it is at 5 a.m.”

Prugh, a professor of wildlife, said the deadly consequences don’t just extend to humans.

“Our analysis showed that under permanent Standard Time, the number of deer-vehicle collisions would increase by 8%,” she said. “So, we would have 2,240 more deer-vehicle collisions each year if this bill passes, and that means 220 more collisions per year where people are injured, and one to two more people die each year in fatal crashes with deer.”

More on deer-car collisions: Deer-hitting season is in full effect throughout WA

While the clock changes are here to stay for at least another year, there is some good news: With “spring forward” still happening on March 10, it will shift the sunset to after 7 p.m. for the first time since September.

You can read more of Kate Stone’s stories here. Follow Kate on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here.

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Out of time: Push for permanent standard time in WA fails to clear legislature