Oregon bill to end daylight saving time fails to clear state Senate

By Dirk VanderHart (OPB)
Feb. 21, 2024 12:22 a.m.

A deadlocked vote in the chamber means Oregon will not be changing its time standard without its neighbors following suit.

FILE: Dave LeMote uses an wrench to adjust hands on a stainless steel tower clock at Electric Time Company, Inc. in Medfield, Mass., in this March 7, 2014 photo.

FILE: Dave LeMote uses an wrench to adjust hands on a stainless steel tower clock at Electric Time Company, Inc. in Medfield, Mass., in this March 7, 2014 photo.

Elise Amendola / AP

Oregon senators have rejected a bill that would make Oregon the only state on the West Coast to switch permanently to standard time.


In a 15-15 vote Tuesday, Senate Bill 1548 became the rare bill to fail on the chamber floor. It went down after lawmakers in both parties raised concerns that Oregon would be going it alone, creating confusion for people who travel frequently to and from neighboring states.

The result means that Oregon, like Washington, is unlikely to take action on ending daylight saving time this year.

The idea isn’t completely dead, however. SB 1548 supporters will try to put an amended version back before the Senate, they said. The altered bill would ensure Oregon does not change its time standard without other neighboring states doing the same.

Lawmakers have demonstrated for years they want the state to “ditch the switch,” ending the twice-yearly time changes that have been linked to increased instances of heart problems and negative mental health impacts.

In 2019, the Legislature approved a bill that would have kept the state permanently on daylight savings time, a move requiring Congressional approval that never came.

Leaving the state on standard time is a far simpler change, requiring only that lawmakers and Gov. Tina Kotek agree. Hawaii, much of Arizona, and U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and Guam already operate on the system.

State Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, is a major proponent of ending the twice-yearly time change in Oregon. Her bill to do so failed to clear the Senate on Tuesday.

State Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, is a major proponent of ending the twice-yearly time change in Oregon. Her bill to do so failed to clear the Senate on Tuesday.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

“If and when the federal government ever decides to entertain daylight saving time again, we can look back at that and reconsider,” said Sen. Kim Thatcher, a Keizer Republican who introduced SB 1548, and argued Oregon could set an example for its neighbors. “For now, we have that ability, we have that power to step out on this issue.”

Thatcher said she’s been working with lawmakers in other West Coast states, but right now California and Washington aren’t moving. A bill to adopt permanent standard time in Washington appears dead in the current legislative session, and a proposal in California hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing.

That created the possibility that border-area residents who commute into or out of Oregon would have their time change repeatedly on any given day.


“That really has the potential to be very disruptive,” said Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland who opposed the bill. “I understand and sympathize with the… goal of setting a precedent for the other states to follow, but I’m not sure that what Oregon does is necessarily in and of itself going to drive those other states to take action.”

Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, represents a wide swath of northeastern Oregon, and said he’d heard worries from constituents who frequently cross the border into Washington.

“I just am going to have to follow what I’m hearing from my constituents and be a no vote even though I would like to move in this direction,” Hansell said.

Fans of the bill responded that any confusion it created would be temporary. “In this age of remote work, many of us on an ongoing basis are constantly dealing with businesses and other people in time zones that are not the same as ours,” said Sen. Elizabeth Steiner, D-Portland. “We know how to do this.”

A family physician, Steiner argued that switching to daylight saving time each year poses unnecessary health hazards.

“When our time clock is not aligned with the sun, it is bad for mental health,” she said. “It increases risk of depression. It is bad for heart disease. We see a significant exacerbation in heart attacks.”

The notion of changing the state’s time standard inevitably stirs up a heated debate in Salem, as fans of either standard or daylight time rush forward with research they believe makes their case.

Supporters of sticking with daylight saving time all year round— meaning darker mornings but light extending further into the evening — cite research that suggests the change would save lives by cutting down on traffic fatalities during the evening commute. They also argue more light at night reduces crime, cuts back on collisions with deer and that it would be a waste to have the sun rising before 5 a.m. during summer months. In Portland, a switch to permanent standard time would result in the sun rising as early as 4:21 a.m. in June.

“The entire point of DST is to push daylight into the portion of the day when the vast majority of the public is awake, moving about town, and can enjoy the benefits of light vs. the dangers of darkness,” said Steve Calandrillo, a law professor at the University of Washington who has argued for clocks to remain on daylight savings time year-round. “Those benefits do not accrue if we move to permanent standard time.”

But advocates for standard time are just as adamant — so much so that there is now a nonprofit dedicated solely to touting the benefits of sticking with what its fans sometimes call “natural time” or “God’s time.” This camp emphasizes that standard time more closely syncs with the body’s natural clock, an argument that is backed by sleep scientists.

The broad benefits promised by fans of standard time include improved “immunity, longevity, mood, alertness, and performance in school, sports, and work.” They point out that permanent daylight saving time could result in sunrise later than 8 a. m. during winter months — as late as 8:50 a.m. in Portland.

“Moving clocks to DST acutely deprives sleep; leaving clocks on DST chronically deprives sleep,” Jay Pea, president of the group Save Standard Time, wrote in testimony submitted in support of Thatcher’s bill. “DST’s delayed sunrise significantly increases accidents, disease, and health care costs. It significantly decreases learning, productivity, and earnings.”

Many people do seem to agree that the twice-annual changing of the clock needs to end. But not everyone.

Sen. Sara Gelser Blouin, D-Corvallis, said on the Senate floor that she’d concluded that falling back and springing forward are necessary evils, since Oregon’s northerly position on the globe ensures that sunrise will either come unreasonably early or unreasonably late without them.

“The real issue is that we are geographically in a place where, as inconvenient as it is, it probably makes sense that we change our clock twice a year,” Gelser Blouin said.