IOWA LEGISLATURE

Time isn't on the side of a permanent time change in Iowa

Daylight saving time begins this weekend with a lost hour of sleep

Electric Time Company employees Dan LaMoore, right, and James Simonini test the lights in three large clocks being const
Electric Time Company employees Dan LaMoore, right, and James Simonini test the lights in three large clocks being constructed at the company’s production facility in Medfield, Mass., Friday morning, March 6, 2009. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
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DES MOINES — Daylight saving time arrives Sunday, but hopes some state lawmakers have for making it permanent in Iowa most likely won’t spring forward.

Iowans who engage in the twice-a-year, clocking-changing ritual this weekend don’t have much prospect for change, backers say, unless sleep-deprived legislators return next week to the Capitol in a grouchy, lost-hour funk and ready to do something about it.

Iowa is one of 32 states that this year are considering or have passed laws that would affect daylight saving time, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some of the bills seek to make daylight saving time year-round, some seek an exemption from federal time-zone rules and others seek to put it to a public vote.

There are bills in both legislative chambers at the Iowa Statehouse that seek to make daylight saving time permanent — one in the Senate to do it outright, and one in the House to do it if neighboring states Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Nebraska do the same to minimize disruptions in border towns.

A separate Senate bill to make Central Standard Time the year-round norm failed to advance this session, and the other measures are soon to see their time for debate run out as well.

“I don’t expect to see floor action on that,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny. “I know it’s a conversation every year, but we just haven’t had a lot of people coming up saying that this is a must-do, so I don’t expect to put it up for a vote.”

But Jim Reecy, associate vice president for research at Iowa State University, said there likely is an economic upside for the state to extend the number of daylight hours that can be put to productive use in areas like construction. Also, there can be an energy saving associated with a switch to daylight saving time for nearly eight months of the year.

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On the downside, Reecy noted, there is a short-term “jet lag” feeling that people experience when they jump an hour forward like this weekend. But there also is a psychological upside because “being awake for more of the sunlight is good.”

Generally, Americans dislike the twice-a-year time changes but appear split on how best to proceed if a change is made.

A poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research issued last November found that seven in 10 Americans prefer not to switch back and forth to mark daylight saving time, but there was no agreement on which time clocks ought to follow.

Among those polled, four in 10 preferred year-round standard time while about three in 10 wanted to stay on daylight saving time. A like number in the 30 percent range wants the status-quo practice of switching back and forth between daylight saving time in the summer and standard time in the winter. This year daylight saving time ends Nov. 1 when clocks fall back an hour.

“My constituents and the general public are all for it,” said Rep. Mike Sexton, a Rockwell City Republican in charge of House File 2059 that seeks to make daylight saving time permanent, “and I think they’ll really be for it once we spring ahead.

“That’s the one that really wipes everybody out. That’s when everybody is tired and crabby. I think once that happens, people will probably be spurred on a little bit,” he said.

The biggest detractors to any effort for Iowa to go it alone and become a year-round daylight saving time island in a Midwest region surrounded by the time-switching status quo were representatives of the broadcast industry who worry the change would play havoc with their programming schedules.

“It’s going to affect viewership, listenership. It will affect our advertisers.” Brad Epperly, a lobbyist representing the Iowa Broadcasters Association, recently told a House subcommittee.

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Sexton noted that some states, like Nebraska, manage with the Mountain Time Zone cutting through their interiors. But House members agreed to revise their bill to say Iowa would change as a region with other states in hopes of sending a message to the federal government to act uniformly rather than create a patchwork of state time standards.

“I really think it’s probably more of a federal issue than it is here,” Whitver noted. “I mean, once you go state by state, it can create problems — everything from TV broadcasting times to it’s still dark after 8 o’clock in the morning in the winter when kids are still trying to get to school. And so there are issues that are legitimate issues that people have brought up.”

At least seven state legislatures have backed asking Congress to allow year-round daylight saving time in the past few years. Also, about 60 percent of California voters supported a ballot proposition last year calling for such a move.

“There’s a bill before Congress to make daylight saving time permanent, and I’m open to supporting it,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. An aide to Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst said she is considering proposals that have been made “to understand what impact they would have on Iowans, including our farmers.”

State Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, who offered Senate File 2077 as a companion to Sexton’s bill in the House, said Iowa has been a leader on a number of issues and he believed it might spur federal action if enough states acted independently on a permanent time solution.

“I think a lot of Iowans are interested. I know that’s a big, bold step but I do think it’s something we should continue the conversation about,” he said.

Rep. Amy Nielsen, a North Liberty Democrat who was on the House State Government subcommittee, said a federal umbrella solution would be better than a hodgepodge of state rules.

“I don’t think the reasons provided (to make daylight saving time permanent in Iowa) were really all that substantial or moving to take action. I think that the obstacles outweigh any kind of perceived advantage,” Nielsen said.

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“I know right now there are different spots in the country where you can cross the street and you’re in daylight saving time or you’re not,” she added. “That just causes problems. People get used to it, yes, but why would we intentionally inflict that on ourselves?”

Federal law allows a state to exempt itself from observing daylight saving time, upon action by the state legislature to do so, but it does not allow the permanent observance of daylight saving time.

All states but Hawaii and Arizona (except for the Navajo Nation) and five U.S. territories observe daylight saving time.

In the last three years, nine states have enacted legislation to provide for year-round daylight saving time, if Congress were to allow such a change, according to the National Council of State Legislatures.

Even President Donald Trump has weighed in on the issue, tweeting in March 2019: “Making Daylight Saving Time permanent is O.K. with me!”

Steve Calandrillo, a University of Washington law professor who has done research on daylight saving time, said the biannual clock switch should be abandoned in favor of year-round daylight saving time to save lives and energy, prevent crime, improve sleep and allow recreation and commerce to flourish.

“Simply put, darkness kills — and darkness in the evening is far deadlier than darkness in the morning,” according to Calandrillo.

On the side of going back to a system of permanent, year-round standard time is the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms, where researchers say studies that shown that the acute effect of daylight saving time in the days after the change are an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, among other things.

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The change is jarring for children, too, especially those who have autism spectrum disorders and other behavioral needs, said Kelli Robertson, an autism consultant and assistive technology coach with the Grant Wood Area Education Agency.

“They can sense things are not happening at the same time,” Robertson said. “Certainly in my house ... it’s a week probably before we can get in a groove.”

As a parent, she said she would gladly do away with daylight saving time. In the meantime, she said anyone who works or lives with children should try to prepare them for the change ahead of time — like changing clocks beforehand — and trying to stick to their routines.

“We’re excited about summer. As adults, we’ll say, ‘Let’s stay up a little later,’ we get a little more lax in our routines,” she said, adding that can make the transition harder for kids. “Even for adults, it’s going to be harder to function next week.”

Daylight saving time — a concept promoted by Benjamin Franklin — was introduced in the United States during World War I to conserve the fuel used to make electricity. A federal law in 1966 made it a uniform national policy — although Arizona and Hawaii did not adopt the daylight saving time standard — and the current configuration was established in 2007.

The current enactment was part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The U.S. Department of Transportation is the federal agency responsible for overseeing daylight saving time and the country’s time zones.

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

Molly Duffy of The Gazette contributed to this report.

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