A bill that would exempt Idaho from observing daylight saving time will move to the House floor after members of the House State Affairs committee voted to approve it Wednesday.
“The point here is stopping the change,” Rep. Christy Zito (R-Hammett), the bill’s sponsor, told the committee. “This can be done right now. We can work on other things, like time zones between Northern and Southern Idaho, or maybe going to permanent daylight saving time, later.”
Zito said that while opting out of daylight saving time can easily be done on the state level, making the jump forward permanently requires approval from Congress, as would any changes to time zones.
Stopping the twice-yearly clock change “is about protecting the health and safety of Idahoans,” Zito said. She cited academic studies correlating health problems and safety issues with the start of daylight saving time, including a 2001 study that found a “significant increase” in car crashes on the Monday after the shift. Most of the negative effects were thought to be related to losing an hour of sleep during the jump forward.
Zito introduced the same bill during last year’s legislative session, but it failed in the House with a 15-55 vote. Zito said she’s continued to receive calls and emails supporting the abolition of daylight saving time from citizens all over the state in the intervening months.
Rep. Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens), among other committee members, voiced concern for logistical issues on the Idaho-Washington border if Idaho made the change. All of Idaho north of Riggins is currently in the Pacific time zone, as is the whole state of Washington.
“As I understand it, the reason we have two time zones between north and south is because of our proximity to Spokane,” Barbieri said. “The difficulties we might encounter, say, with commuters going between Coeur d’Alene and Spokane every day concerns me.”
Barbieri suggested moving the effective date for Zito’s bill from Jan. 1, 2021 to July 2021 to allow time for fine-tuning and to see if neighboring states switch successfully. Oregon and Washington have passed legislation making daylight savings permanent, but Washington is awaiting a Congressional sign-off and Oregon’s bill won’t go into effect unless Washington and California make the switch.
Zito said she believed Idaho should not wait for other states to change but rather be the first step forward in putting a stop to daylight savings.
“(Other states) have all put forward legislation that would take place sometime in the future when someone does something,” Zito said. “I firmly believe that if Idaho takes an affirmative, positive step towards doing something, other states will follow.”
The committee voted to send Zito’s bill to the full House along party lines, with Rep. Linda Hartgen (R-Twin Falls) casting the only Republican “no” vote. Hartgen had also expressed concern that the January 2021 deadline would not allow enough time to make needed changes.
Earlier Wednesday, the Senate State Affairs committee voted to introduce a bill by Sen. Steve Vick (R-Dalton Gardens) ensuring Idaho’s portion of the Pacific time zone will also switch if Washington’s change, approved by their legislature last May, goes through.
Riley Haun is an intern with the University of Idaho McClure Center for Public Policy Research and the UI JAMM News Service.