Politics & Government

Sedgwick County wants to ditch Daylight Saving Time switch

Sedgwick County commissioners are tired of springing forward and falling back.

So much so that they’ve included ending the annual switch to daylight saving time as part of their legislative agenda, a list they compile every year of actions they’d like the state Legislature to take.

It’s not their highest priority, coming in behind mental health, taxation, criminal justice and voting issues.

But it did make the cut as a “secondary initiative” in the county platform, along with a resolution to ease restrictions on employers of 14- and 15-year-old workers.

“There are already a couple of states that don’t change (clocks) back and forth,” said Commission Chairman David Dennis. “This also came up in my Citizens’ Advisory Board and they were 100 percent in favor of this. I think probably the dominant thought is we just go to daylight savings time and just stay there.”

“The other thing I’ve heard, and I did a little bit of research on the internet, is it looks like the days more people have heart attacks is the day that we spring forward and they lose an hour of sleep, so that’s something else to consider for the health of our community,” Dennis said.

According to popular mythology, daylight saving time was started to give farmers an extra hour of field work in the evening during the warmer months.

That’s not actually true. Germany started it in World War I as an energy-saving measure and the United States followed suit near the end of the war.

Daylight saving time resurfaced as a World War II conservation measure, but didn’t become a full-time national policy until the 1966 passage of the Uniform Time Act that established when clocks should be turned forward and turned back.

Daylight saving time has been expanded several times since, most recently in 2015 when Congress made it four weeks longer. It’s now about eight months, with standard time being the other four.

States can opt out of daylight saving time, according to the Department of Transportation, which acts as sort of the national timekeeper.

Hawaii opted out. Arizona did too, except for Navajo tribal lands that straddle the New Mexico border.

Somewhat ironically, farmers never liked changing their clocks and lobbied against it from the get-go. It took away early morning daylight when they took crops to market and dairy cows especially react poorly to changes in routine.

Dennis said he doesn’t see what difference it would make to farmers because they don’t work to the clock anyway.

“Having grown up as a farmer, I’m not sure it has a whole lot of impact because they work when they need to work,” he said. “When the sun comes up a lot of them are already working and when the sun goes down a lot of them are still working.”

The rest of the county’s legislative agenda includes:

Six measures seeking increased support for mental health treatment and crisis centers.

Letting voters vote a full ballot at any polling place in the county, instead of being limited to their home precinct. Currently, voters who go to the wrong place can cast a provisional ballot, but won’t get the correct ballot so some of their votes don’t get counted.

Changing property taxation of big-box retail stores, which are now taxed on the value they’d have as vacant buildings.

Support for juvenile justice reform to increase local control over moderate-risk non-violent youth offenders.

Allowing counties to post legal notices on the Internet instead of having to publish them in newspapers.

Loosening child-labor laws to make it easier for employers to hire 14- and 15-year-olds.

Commissioners dropped, at least for now, platform planks calling for more county authority to clean up nuisance properties and to loosen restrictions on contracts for public construction projects.

Those two ideas will be sent to the planning department for further study.

Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.