Oregon lawmakers voted four years ago to keep the state permanently on daylight saving time, eliminating the annual need to “fall back” an hour as the leaves change color and the air grows chillier.
But at 2 a.m. on Sunday Oregonians’ smartphones will dutifully do just that.
As the late Yankee baseball legend Yogi Berra might put it, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
Despite efforts made last year and again this year in Congress to adopt the bipartisan Sunshine Protection Act, the twice-yearly changing of the clocks still stands the test of time.
The bill, which would allow states to stay permanently on daylight saving time, passed in the Senate a year ago but didn’t make it through the House. This year, the bill has stalled again.
“With each passing year, this biannual madness of changing clocks gets sillier and sillier,” Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden recently said in an email to the Statesman Journal. “That’s why the Oregon Legislature has acted to keep our state on permanent daylight saving time, and why the U.S. Senate has acted similarly on the national level.”
Wyden, a Democrat, is one of several lawmakers who’ve signed on as a co-sponsor for the Sunshine Protection Act, a bill led by Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican. Proponents argue that staying on daylight saving time means more sunshine later in the day with benefits that include:
- Improved traffic safety, including reduced collisions with animals in the dark
- Reduced risk of cardiac issues, stroke and seasonal depression
- A boost to overall economic activity and agriculture
- Reducing childhood obesity as kids exercise more after school
- Reduced energy usage
Some of those points have been debated, though, and sleep doctors say moving permanently to daylight saving time may not be good for people’s health. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has argued that, if anything, Americans should stay on standard time.
“The science is clear,” AASM President Jennifer Martin said in a press release. Standard time better aligns with humans’ circadian rhythm — the internal “body clock” regulating the timing of alertness, sleepiness, and other biological functions.
“Bright morning light, especially following a good night of sleep, has a therapeutic effect and is important for maintaining a healthy mood,” said Martin, a licensed clinical psychologist.
Martin argued that daylight saving time actually could worsen seasonal depression and that the darker mornings could make it harder for people to get up for work and school, and reduce safety on the roads.
The sleep academy also points out that Congress did enact a one-year experiment in 1973 to keep the nation on daylight saving time. A year later, the idea was abandoned.
Daylight saving time began during World War I, after the U.S. noticed Germany using it as a means to conserve fuel and power with extended daylight hours. After the war, states could choose whether to change the clocks. When the Department of Transportation was created in 1966, the agency assumed control of setting uniform standard time to help reduce confusion.
Most states have been changing their clocks in the spring and fall since the First World War — Hawaii, Arizona, and U.S. territories Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Guam elected to stay on standard time year-round, as recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
In recent years, several states have passed legislation to keep the clocks from changing but federal approval is required to make it official.
On the West Coast, Oregon and Washington have passed measures to stay on daylight saving time. California voters approved a similar measure in 2018, but it failed to get legislative approval and then stalled again in 2022.
Wyden argues that Oregonians are ready to ditch the changing of the clocks.
“Based on what I hear from Oregonians in town halls and other settings,” Wyden said in his email to the Salem Statesman, “they’re rightly annoyed at having to change their clocks and quite aware how that needless change poses problems for the economy and health.”
There is one way Oregon could circumvent federal approval and that is by following Arizona and Hawaii’s lead to stay permanently in standard time. State lawmakers would need to rework legislation passed in 2019 to do that.
Looking ahead, Oregon’s Legislature gave the state a 10-year window for a switch to year-round daylight savings to become “operative.” So the clock is still ticking on a possible change if Congress acts before Nov. 30, 2029.
OPB’s Meagan Cuthill contributed to this story.