Oregon considers time change, but Malheur County remains special case

Whether they’re for standard time or daylight saving time, Oregonians are tired of changing their clocks twice every year. That’s the message state senators considering a time change in Oregon received this week.

More than 50 people submitted written testimony or addressed the Senate Business and General Government Committee Tuesday regarding Senate Bill 320. Only one witness argued that Oregon should keep switching between standard and daylight time every March and November. The others said they want to get rid of the biannual switch.

The legislation would let voters settle the matter in November 2020. If voters approved the change, Oregon would switch to daylight saving time in March 2021 and stay there.

“I just think it’s a smart thing to do, and I think people are just grumpy and tired of changing the clock,” said state Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer, who is sponsoring the bill along with state Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, Rep. John Lively, D-Springfield, and Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence.

Public testimony backs up Post.

Aloha resident Jonas Acres said that as a software engineer, changing between times makes his job much harder and can lead to errors. For example, he noted, the change to standard time in November means that one hour in the early morning is repeated every year. Most Oregonians are asleep by then, but for businesses and services that never sleep — Acres used hospital emergency rooms as an example — having two 1 a.m. hours can be a nightmare when tracking vital data.

Those timekeeping issues can be very serious, even life-threatening, in some fields, Acres said.

“We need to patch DST out of the current society,” Acres said. “SB 320 will let clocks do their jobs, ticking happily from one hour to the next in the monotonic progression ordained by heaven and the laws of thermodynamics.”

Some submitting written testimony urged lawmakers to abandon daylight saving time and make standard time year-round instead.

“I am in the fourth generation of a family afflicted by SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and it is already hard enough to get up on gray winter mornings,” Newberg resident Carol Kelley testified. “I hate to think of sunrise times an hour later all winter long than they are currently. Plus as an educator, I don’t like the idea of schoolchildren walking to school in darkness throughout our four to five months of fall and winter before lighter mornings return.”

Thatcher said Tuesday that her staff crunched the numbers for locations throughout Oregon and found that, if daylight saving time were adopted for the whole year, the latest sunrise in Oregon — on the winter solstice — would come around 9 a.m. on the north coast.

Despite its name, standard time is only in effect from November to March — less than half the year. Thanks to that switch, during the winter, the sun rises earlier in the morning, but it sets earlier as well.

Aileen Kaye, a Turner resident, told senators that keeping daylight saving time all year would make life easier for her.

“I just would love more daylight in the evenings,” Kaye said. “We have horses, and they can stay out later. We can clean their stalls in the daylight. It’s wonderful.”

Marilyn Grendele wrote to the committee that for elderly Oregonians like her, “more daylight in the evening frees us to go out and not fear driving home in the dark.”

Rebecca Gladstone of Eugene said she just wants to see a uniform time — for the whole year, and for the whole West Coast, including Washington, California and British Columbia — whether it’s standard time or daylight time.

“People don’t like to change back and forth in the fall and the spring,” Gladstone said. She also pointed to studies that suggest people are at higher risk of a heart attack after switching to daylight saving time every year. A 2014 study by the University of Michigan suggested that loss of sleep could be to blame.

Last November, about 60 percent of California voters backed Proposition 7, paving the way for the California Legislature to make daylight time permanent. A Washington bill similar to the one that Lively, Nearman, Post and Thatcher are sponsoring passed overwhelmingly in the state’s House last week.

British Columbia’s premier has suggested that if Oregon, Washington and California make the switch, his province may follow.

Changing to daylight saving time year-round would need congressional approval. Federal law allows a state to opt out of daylight saving time — Arizona and Hawaii are the only two states that currently do so — but it does not currently permit a state to opt out of standard time in the time zone to which it has been assigned.

The chief sponsors of SB 320 have also proposed that the Legislature petition Congress to allow Oregon and other states to make daylight saving time permanent.

President Donald Trump said this week that he would support year-round daylight saving time throughout the country. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden supports the idea as well, a spokesman said Tuesday. Oregon’s junior senator, Jeff Merkley, is undecided.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has authority to set time zones throughout the country. All but one of Oregon’s 36 counties is in the Pacific Time Zone. Malheur County in southeastern Oregon is in the Mountain Time Zone, as is most of Idaho.

Sen. Alan Olsen, R-Canby, a member of the Senate committee, noted that moving to daylight saving time year-round would effectively shift most of Oregon to Mountain Time, one hour ahead of Pacific Time. Malheur County would be moved an hour ahead of Mountain Time.

One person who wrote to the committee about SB 320 suggested that the bill should address Malheur County specifically.

“It has one obvious flaw — ensuring that the people of Malheur County get to have a say regarding their unique situation,” Nick Christensen wrote. “But overall, Oregonians will be better-served by never changing their clocks, and having later sunsets in the winter months.”

Reporter Mark Miller: [email protected]. Miller works for the Oregon Capital Bureau, a collaboration of EO Media Group, Pamplin Media Group, and Salem Reporter.

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