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Oregon wants to stop changing the clock to and from daylight saving time, but it’s still happening

Congress must give permission before the biannual ritual of time changes can be banished.
Congress must give permission before the biannual ritual of time changes can be banished.

On Sunday, the annual occasion of “falling back” occurred at 2 a.m. Pacific Time for Oregonians as the clocks switched from daylight saving time to standard time. But the state is trying to stop the practice.

In June 2019, Oregon took the first step toward eliminating the time change when legislators passed a measure that would allow most of the state – the majority which falls into the Pacific Time Zone – to remain in daylight saving time.

Gov. Kate Brown signed the legislation, yet it hasn’t gone into effect. It’s been two years, so why not? There are a few layers.

Some background on why daylight saving exists

More than a century ago, 1918 to be exact, the federal government first “delegated time zone supervision to the federal organization in charge of railroad regulation — the Interstate Commerce Commission,” according to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s website.

The concept of daylight saving time transpired once the U.S. entered World War I, after the government noticed Germany’s practice of changing time to conserve fuel and power with extended daylight hours. The U.S. was inspired and copied the idea.

Once World War I ended, daylight saving time was abolished for the nation as a whole but allowed to continue on a state-by-state basis.

“As a result, confusion and collisions caused by different local times once again became a transportation issue,” according to the U.S. DOT.

In 1966, the department was founded and given regulatory power over time zones, which included the renewal of uniform daylight saving time across the country with dates for the twice-yearly time transitions set by law.

Currently, two states (Arizona and Hawaii) and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Guam don’t observe daylight saving time.

What it will take for Oregon’s law to begin

Doing away with “falling back” and “springing forward” in Oregon is not just up to Oregon – its Pacific Time Zone neighbors are involved, too.

All three West Coast states are trying to stay in daylight saving time. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a similar measure as Oregon in 2019. In California, voters supported year-round daylight saving time in 2018. The proposition then went to California lawmakers, but the effort reached a dead end when legislators didn’t pass it by the end-of-session deadline.

So, California is the main reason the change is in a holding pattern on the West Coast.

However, even if California followed the suit of Oregon and Washington, there’s still another party that gets a say: Congress.

In the case that the trio of states would be in favor of year-round daylight saving time, federal lawmakers would have to give a stamp of approval to the change and having all three states on the same page would likely help. Congress needs to get involved because the federal Uniform Time Act doesn’t allow for year-round daylight saving time.

Is there another way without California?

There is, but it’s tricky. It relates to how Arizona and Hawaii don’t observe daylight saving time.

As noted earlier, those two states remain in standard time year-round. Oregon’s measure has approved the state to always observe daylight saving time.

Under federal law, a state can exempt itself from daylight saving time transitions by being in standard time year-round. There isn’t a requirement for congressional approval when a state goes that route.

The benefit of daylight saving time over standard time is as its name and purpose suggest: to have more light in a day – which many argue is better for individual health, economic productivity, etc. The benefits are why it was created and why 19 states including Oregon, Washington and California want to be in daylight saving time year-round.

Looking ahead, the Oregon law gave itself a 10-year window to become “operative,” so the process is ongoing until the deadline of Nov. 30, 2029.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting