Daylight saving time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday, so let the clock-changing debate resume.
The November ritual of turning the clocks back an hour may no longer be a chore because smartphones, computers and other electronic gadgets do it automatically. But the practice continues to stir emotions.
Most of the United States has been changing the clocks twice a year for more than a century. In Oregon, it is all we know.
Daylight saving time — note saving is singular — begins the second Sunday in March and ends the first Sunday in November. Spring forward and fall back are familiar terms used as a reminder for which direction to adjust the clocks.
We lose an hour in the spring and gain an hour in the fall, but it is hardly that simple.
Tinkering with time
The complicated history of daylight saving time in the U.S. began in 1918. It was introduced as a temporary measure during World War I to conserve energy and maximize daylight. Germany, the United Kingdom and France used it in their war efforts for two years prior.
It was repealed after the war in the U.S. when it proved unpopular but reintroduced under the same guise during World War II.
From 1945 to 1966, there were no systematic rules for daylight saving time, and states could choose whether to observe it and when it would begin and end.
Confusion across state lines led Congress to pass the Uniform Time Act, which split the year into six months of standard time and six months of daylight saving. It allowed states to opt out, which Arizona and Hawaii eventually did.
The U.S. tried permanent daylight saving time during the energy crisis in the 1970s, but it was considered a failed experiment.
The current daylight saving period was established with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and went into effect in 2007.
The pros and cons
Many consider daylight saving time an antiquated practice from wartime with just as many negative as positive results.
Setting the clocks ahead one hour in the spring adds an hour of natural daylight. Proponents argue longer evenings motivate people to get out of the house, be more active and give them more time to shop and dine out, boosting the economy.
Detractors argue changing clocks is unhealthy, altering sleep patterns and messing with the body’s natural rhythm. Studies have found the risk of heart attack increases following the spring change, and the risk of depression increases when the clocks are set back in the fall.
Upticks in car accidents and crime also are linked to the fall time change.
Americans are divided on the subject.
A poll released in March by Monmouth University in New Jersey found that 61% of Americans would do away with the nation’s twice-a-year time change, while 35% wanted to keep the practice. Those wanting a year-round time in place prefer daylight saving time.
A CBS News poll released in April also found making daylight saving time permanent was favored over standard time by nearly all demographic and political groups. Just one in five Americans were content with continuing to switch clocks back and forth every year.
Where does Oregon stand?
Oregon took its first step toward eliminating the time changes in 2019 when lawmakers passed a measure that would keep most of the state — minus Malheur County, which is on Mountain Time — permanently on daylight saving time.
Gov. Kate Brown signed the legislation, but it has yet to go into effect. The bill was contingent upon California and Washington doing the same, plus approval from Congress.
California and Washington did their part, joining Oregon in the wait for Congress.
While a state can opt out of daylight saving time and be on standard time year-round, federal law does not allow the reverse despite widespread interest.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that in the past seven years or so, state legislatures have considered 450 bills and resolutions on the topic. At least one-third of states endorse year-round daylight saving time as soon as the federal law allows it.
Waiting on the feds
Many federal lawmakers agree that “spring forward” and “fall back” clock changes should be done away with, but cannot agree on what the permanent time should be.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation to abolish clock changes and make daylight saving time permanent, beginning in 2023. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, introduced the Sunshine Protection Act, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, was among the co-sponsors.
“Glad the Senate has passed the Sunshine Protection Act so Oregonians aren’t springing back & forth each year in a silly exercise that hurts everybody’s health & our economy,” Wyden tweeted March 15. “Time now for the House to act.”
In June 2022, the U.S. House failed to pass the bill, which is now stalled and scheduled to expire in December.
Let the debate resume in March 2023.
Capi Lynn is the Statesman Journal’s news columnist. Send comments, questions and tips to her at [email protected] or 503-399-6710. Follow her work on Twitter @CapiLynn and Facebook @CapiLynnSJ.