Utah lawmakers will once again debate an end to the twice-annual changing of clocks for daylight saving time after a new bill on the topic earned committee approval Thursday.
Members of the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee voted 4-1 for SB59, which would leave Utah permanently sprung forward on daylight time if such a move is cleared under federal law and at least four neighboring states follow suit.
“We’re looking at Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and those other states,” said Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, the bill’s sponsor. “They also have to act so we’re not an island on our own.”
The question of whether, and how, to end the spring forward/fall back cycle has become a perennial point of discussion on Capitol Hill. Previous efforts have looked at placing the issue before voters, and last year the Legislature approved a nonbinding resolution urging support for a change to federal law.
Currently, states are allowed to opt out of daylight saving time and remain on standard time year-round, but are not able to permanently remain on daylight time.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, has sponsored legislation to provide that third option to states, and a growing number of critics nationwide have questioned the practice of altering time zones during the year.
Michelle McOmber, CEO of the Utah Medical Association, spoke in favor of Harper’s bill on Thursday. She told committee members that moving clocks forward and back by one hour has been linked to a number of deleterious health effects, including strokes, sleeping disorders and complications during pregnancy.
“This is a medical issue,” she said.
But Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, pushed back on McOmber’s testimony, asking whether those same health effects occur when individuals travel to different time zones.
“Seems weird to me that we wouldn’t have massive heart attack issues on planes every day then,” he said.
McOmber said there is an impact to health from long-distance travel, but that the Utah Medical Association doesn’t not necessarily recommend against it.
“We’re not saying don’t ever travel,” she said. “But we are saying it is more helpful to stay at one time zone and one time throughout the year.”
Ipson, who has opposed similar efforts to dump clock-changing in the past, was the lone committee member to vote against Harper’s bill. It will now move to the full Senate for consideration.