DES MOINES — The clock is ticking on legislative efforts to make daylight saving time permanent in Iowa.
Separate bills have been introduced in the Iowa House and Senate to make daylight saving time permanently the official time throughout Iowa. Legislation also has been introduced in the Senate to make Central Standard Time year-round in Iowa.
An initial discussion of House File 2059 stalled Tuesday when subcommittee members expressed concern over how the time variance would disrupt activities in border communities, and they preferred to consider making daylight saving time permanent if other Midwest states took the same action.
“I think if we had an interstate compact where a majority of the states were signing off to get rid of this, I think that would be a lot better,” said Rep. Joe Mitchell, R-Mount Pleasant. “I think it would be better if we had a clause that said multi-states had to sign off on it.”
Rep. Mike Sexton, a Rockwell City Republican who offered the bill, said it would be best if the federal government ended the current arrangement whereby daylight saving time begins the second Sunday in March by moving clocks forward one hour and ends the first Sunday of November when clocks are moved back one hour. The changes take place March 8 and Nov. 1 in 2020.
“Do I think this has to be a federal government deal? I certainly do,” Sexton said during a three-member subcommittee meeting that he chaired. “But I don’t think the federal government gets moved very far until a majority of the states say, ‘you know what, it’s time to look at this.’”
Sexton said 36 states are looking at the issue, and at least eight states in the past two years have approved going to permanent daylight saving time if Congress authorizes the change.
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“The whole purpose of this bill is to show the federal government that Iowa is another one of the states that thinks that we shouldn’t be doing this anymore,” Sexton said.
“More than half of the states are sick and tired of this,” he noted. “Can I live with this? I can live with changing the clock. It doesn’t bother me a bit. But I get emails from teachers and parents and how hard it is on their little kids. Why do we do this? People are tired of it.
“I mean there was a need at the turn of the century when we had to do chores without any lights and we had to farm without any lights. We don’t live in that age anymore,” he added.
But Brad Epperly, a lobbyist representing the Iowa Broadcasters Association, told the subcommittee having Iowa on a different time than border communities would create havoc for television and radio stations providing national programming to viewers in different time zones.
“Our issue is with programming and the impact on that,” Epperly said. “It’s going to affect viewership, listenership. It will affect our advertisers.”
However, Sexton questioned how states, such as Nebraska, manage with the Mountain Time Zone cutting through their interiors. While it would be problematic if Iowa were on a different timeframe from other states, Epperly said “it wouldn’t be insurmountable.”
Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, who offered a similar Senate bill, said the border-state effect has been one of his concerns, but overall he thought it would be better for the Iowa economy if the state were on daylight saving time year-round.
“I just had a lot of people contact me about why do we do this. I realize this is kind of far-fetched, but I think it’s something we should have a conversation about,” Zaun said.
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The House subcommittee members planned to work on language that would make the time change contingent on at least half the states bordering Iowa taking the same action. However, the bill did not move forward Tuesday pending that asked-for amendment.
Daylight saving time 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.
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