The Utah Senate gave preliminary approval on Monday to a bill that would permanently place the state on Mountain Daylight Time, ending the twice-annual changing of clocks for daylight saving.
Monday’s 28-1 vote followed a brief and semiserious debate, in which senators questioned whether setting a consistent time year-round would affect the growth of flowers, dedicated their votes to individual constituents, warned against the health dangers of traveling between time zones, and asked whether passing the bill would end what has become a perennial debate on Capitol Hill.
“If we pass this, can you guarantee us it will stop coming back every session?” said Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross.
Taylorsville Republican Sen. Wayne Harper, the sponsor of SB59, said that he would personally see the issue as settled if the bill is successful.
“This should put it all to bed,” Harper said.
In order to become law, SB59 must receive a second majority vote in the Senate, approval in the House and the signature of Gov. Gary Herbert.
But even if successful, the bill would not immediately take effect. While states are allowed to opt out of daylight saving time and instead remain on standard time year-round, federal law does not currently allow permanent observance of daylight time.
For Utah, SB59 would make year-round daylight time contingent on federal law being changed to allow the state that option, and similar legislation passing in at least four other Western states.
Harper said representatives from Utah have met with counterparts from other states through events and organizations like the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and that there is growing interest around a multistate push for permanent daylight time.
“Quite a number of states have become involved with this,” he said.
Roosevelt Republican Sen. Ronald Winterton, who voted in favor of SB59, said he had heard from educators in his district who opposed the bill. Because the sun rises and sets an hour later during daylight saving time, he said, there is a concern that students would be traveling to school in the dark every day.
“They actually said they didn’t want me to vote for this because of that reason,” Winterton said.
Harper said he had met with educators and other interest groups, and was aware of those concerns. But he added that the current practice of switching clocks twice a year is more broadly detrimental, and that moving to year-round daylight time could add to the growing conversation about later school start times.
“We’ve chosen not to do standard time,” Harper said, “so let’s do the option that most people prefer.”