State's latest daylight saving time proposal would mean earlier summer sunsets

Laurel Demkovich

 

January 18, 2024

Houses at sunset in Seattle. Photo by Aaron McCoy for Getty Images.

This spring could be the last one when Washingtonians move their clocks ahead one hour for daylight saving time, if a proposal making its way through the Legislature passes this year.

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is fighting to "ditch the switch" in favor of year-round Pacific Standard Time – now in effect from the first Sunday in November to the second Sunday in March.

It's not Washington's first debate over the twice-yearly clock change.

A 2019 law would put the state on permanent daylight saving time, the preference for many in the Legislature and all those who enjoy more light in the evening. But Congress needs to approve a federal policy before Washington's law can take effect. The current Congress shows no signs of doing so.

"We've waited and waited and waited," said state Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, who is sponsoring the latest bill. He noted the state has seen eight time switches since lawmakers originally approved statewide permanent daylight savings.

"We're tired of the switch," Padden added, speaking before the Senate State Government and Elections Committee on Tuesday. "The time has come to give people some certainty in the time of year."

His legislation, Senate Bill 5795, has 12 co-sponsors, including Democratic Sen. Manka Dhingra, of Redmond, who testified in support on Tuesday.

Research shows that switching time in the spring and fall can have negative health effects as many people often struggle to return to their sleep schedules and daily routines in the weeks immediately after the clock change.

But there's disagreement over whether permanent daylight saving time or permanent standard time is the best option. Hawaii and Arizona are the only states on permanent standard time.

Permanent Pacific Standard Time would mean the sun rising and setting an hour earlier in the summer. So, for instance, in western Washington, June would see what are now sunsets around 9 p.m. shift to 8 p.m. and sunrises around 4 a.m.

But sticking with permanent standard time, unlike adopting daylight saving time year-round, doesn't require Congress to take action.

And under the new proposal, if Congress ever does pass a law to allow permanent daylight saving time, Washington would then switch to it.

To avoid Washington being in its own time zone for part of the year, Padden said he is working with lawmakers in other states, like Oregon and Idaho, to pass similar proposals, so clocks across the region would remain synchronized.

While most people agree that the time switch should go, experts disagree on which time option is healthier and safer for humans.

"There are trade-offs," Steve Calandrillo, a University of Washington health care and economics law professor, said.

But Calandrillo went further to argue that Washington should not switch to permanent standard time and that the state should wait until it can enact permanent daylight saving time. He, like other critics of Padden's plan, argued lives would be saved if the state had more daylight hours in the evening as opposed to the morning.

The added hours of evening daylight also give people more sunshine for outdoor recreation and other social activities, according to permanent standard time opponents.

But permanent standard time supporters say it is most similar to the sun's movements, which humans' internal clocks are in tune with.

"The underlying biology is very clear," said Vishesh Kapur, a University of Washington professor who is also part of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. "We have an internal biological clock set by sunlight. It aligns with the sun when we follow standard time."

How far SB 5795 can get in a 60-day session that is short on time and packed with other issues remains to be seen.

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said his caucus will seriously consider the standard time proposal but that he is not as certain about its outcome as he once was about switching to permanent daylight saving time.

 

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