Politics & Government

Change your clocks no more? Kansas bill to end daylight saving time sparks debate

Imagine no longer “falling back” or “springing ahead.” Imagine a world where you don’t have to figure out how to set your microwave or dashboard clock.

If you live in Kansas, imagine it’s a day that may be closer than you think.

A bill before state lawmakers would exempt Kansas from daylight saving time. Beginning after 2 a.m. on Nov. 3, 2019, there would be no more clock-turning twice a year. The state would remain on standard time.

Rep. Kristey Williams, an Augusta Republican, said she decided to introduce the bill after hearing from constituents.

“I think they don’t like switching back and forth. That’s the tough spot, going back and forth,” Williams said.

Before you decide it will never happen, consider this: the Sedgwick County Commission, which represents the state’s second most-populous county, has also officially adopted elimination of daylight saving time as a legislative priority.

David Dennis, a Sedgwick County commissioner, pointed out that despite its name, the amount of daylight remains constant.

“We really don’t save any daylight whatsoever,” Dennis said.

Advocates say it is more than a matter of personal convenience. They cite evidence that the twice-yearly time shift is costly and a possible health hazard. Studies in the New England Journal of Medicine and the American Journal of Cardiology report increased hospital admissions for heart attacks on the Monday after time shifts.

Chumra, a Washington economics and analytics firm, estimates that health issues, workplace accidents and “cyberloafing” immediately following time changes cost businesses $430 million a year.

But if opting out of daylight saving time is such a great idea, why have only two other states—Arizona and Hawaii—actually done so since Congress standardized the system in 1966? Opponents say there are compelling reasons.

While it is widely assumed that daylight saving time was created to help farmers to stay in their fields, it was actually a World War I-era measure devised to save electricity. And the energy savings are significant. The U.S. Department of Energy says that the four-week expansion of daylight saving time in 2007 saved 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours—the amount needed to power 100,000 households for an entire year.

Perhaps most compelling is the potential for the confusion it could bring to a metropolitan area of more than 2 million spread across two states—one that is daylight saving-observant and one that is not.

Like, say, Kansas City.

“I’ve got meetings in Missouri all the time and for me to try to keep that one figured out, that would really be something,” said Sen. John Skubal, an Overland Park Republican.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James said he hadn’t given the idea “a moment’s thought.” Until he had a few thoughts.

“I think it’s always problematic when you have people that are living in the same house doing different things and on different schedules and basically having two sets of clocks,” James said. “It’s hard enough to remember when you’re traveling across the country what time zone you’re in.”

He added: “That wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to have to remember what time zone you’re in when you’re traveling across state lines as we do every day. Okay, the store closes at 10 o’clock. Is that Kansas time or Missouri time?”

While Hawaii’s remote location minimizes the impact of having no daylight saving, out-of-state visitors to Arizona can encounter frustration.

“As a lawyer, if I have airline flights or telephone conference calls with people in Arizona, I have to always straighten out which time is it going to be,” said Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat, calling elimination of daylight saving a good idea but a decision that should be made by Congress.

An Arizona Republic story in 2017, the 50th anniversary of its opt out, noted that some network television shows and sports events outside the state (such as Monday Night Football) begin later during daylight saving, forcing fans to stay up later.

Don’t look to Congress to make a change, according to U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran’s office.

Morgan Said, a spokeswoman for Moran, said the senator believes that any daylight saving time exemption proposals are “best debated at the state level.”

The Kansas measure has been assigned to the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, and Williams suggested reporters reach out to the committee chairman to see if he is interested in pursuing the bill “because ultimately he is going to have the say on that.”

The chairman, Rep. John Barker, an Abilene Republican, said Monday that he didn’t plan to work the bill currently because there wasn’t much interest from members of the committee.

Williams said there are numerous issues before lawmakers, but this is the “one thing that impacts every single Kansan every single day.”

Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman, an Olathe Republican, said that if Kansas and Missouri switch together it might make sense.

“I would like to see some details, especially for the ones who live in metropolitan areas next to Missouri,” Ryckman said.

Missouri lawmakers have explored the idea of dropping daylight saving time in the past. In previous years, a constitutional amendment has been proposed to stop the practice. It’s never advanced through the Legislature.

“I think it’s actually an idea with some merit,” Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr, a Springfield Republican.

“The idea that as you travel across the country you have to change your watches and clocks, it seems like a relic of a bygone era.”

Contributing: Allison Kite and Hunter Woodall of The Kansas City Star