Monday, November 9, 2015

Daylight Saving Time and the Law

On November 1, at the stroke of 2:00 AM, Washingtonian clocks collectively rolled back to 1:00 AM (providing many of us an extra hour of much needed sleep). The popular saying “spring forward, fall back” reminds us that it is once again Daylight Saving Time (DST) in Washington State. As we adjust to later sunrises and sunsets, we might reflect on the laws that make DST a reality, and on efforts to change those laws.

In 1960, Washington became the 15th state to adopt DST when 51.7% of voters approved Ballot Initiative 210.  In the official voter pamphlet, the initiative promised “154 more hours of daylight each year.”

page from voter's guide summarizing initiative 210

The voter pamphlet also provided arguments against the initiative, such as “Children do not get their proper rest under Daylight Saving Time.”

page from voter's pamphlet describing initiative 210 con

With its successful passage, Initiative 210 was codified in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) at 1.20.051.

revised code of washington on daylight savings time

Not long thereafter, the United States Congress passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966, codified at 15 U.S.C. § 260a, establishing DST throughout the United States. Congress allowed states to opt out, though the only two that have opted out thus far are Arizona and Hawaii.

united states code on daylight savings time

Recent bills in the Washington State House of Representatives and Washington State Senate have tried to eliminate the shift to and from DST from Washington law. Sponsors of these bills claim the annual time shift causes major disruptions to sleep cycles, increasing the risk of workplace accidents, car crashes, and medical problems.

Washington State Representative Elizabeth Scott introduced a bill in the House that would establish year-round Pacific Standard Time in Washington State, while Washington State Representative Joe Schmick introduced a bill that would ask the United States Congress for permission to establish year-round DST in Washington State (the Uniform Time Act currently prohibits this). Both bills face opposition in committee. Meanwhile, Washington State Senator John McCoy introduced a bill in the Senate that would establish year-round Pacific Standard Time in Washington State. This bill died in committee in February.

In 2008, University of Washington Law School Professor Steve Calandrillo and J.D. Dustin Buehler wrote Time Well Spent: An Economic Analysis of Daylight Saving Time Legislation, published in the Wake Forest Law Review, weighing the costs and benefits of DST (43 Wake Forest L. Rev. 45).  They concluded that year-round DST “would save hundreds of lives annually.”

law review article on daylight savings time

The research for this blog post was conducted using print resources available in the Gallagher Law Library. Come see us soon for your own legal research!

stack of law books

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