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House dumps plan to put fate of daylight saving time in voters’ hands

Some lawmakers saw the bill as a precedent to send any tough issue to an opinion vote.

Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune Rep. Norman Thurston, R-Provo, in the Utah House of Representatives, Wednesday, January 28, 2015.

The House killed a bill Friday to allow putting non-binding opinion questions on the ballot — an effort aimed mostly to allow a vote on dumping daylight saving time.

Instead, the House dumped HB78 on a 34-36 vote.

It's sponsor, Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, said daylight light saving time is debated every year, but nothing changes. He said allowing voters to express opinions on it in the 2018 election might finally give lawmakers ammunition to act.

But many lawmakers saw it as setting a precedent to punt to an opinion vote anytime they confront a tough issue.

Rep. Douglas Sagers, R-Tooele, said lawmakers are elected "to do a job. Taking this route is an abdication of our responsibility" to make decisions.

Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, said it would take "a step away from our republican form of government," and said it "sets a dangerous precedent."

Even if the bill had passed, a separate resolution by Thurston to put daylight saving time on the 2018 ballot already had been killed in committee — so it may not have appeared anyway, unless revived next year.

The state conducted a big survey on daylight saving time in 2014, ordered through legislation. The Governor's Office of Economic Development held several hearings, huddled with key industries and conducted a nonscientific online survey that attracted 27,000 responses.

Participants' lengthy and passionate comments in the survey amounted to 574,000 words — nearly the number in the famously long novel, "War and Peace."

In the final tally, 67 percent of respondents favored keeping Mountain Standard Time all year. Another 18 percent wanted a new system to keep daylight saving time all year. In last place, 15 percent preferred the current system that requires adjusting the time twice a year.

Thurston said many lawmakers have not trusted results of that study, saying they were not scientific. He said that's why he wants to allow a direct vote on the matter.

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