We Get Support From:
Become a Supporter 
 We Get Support From:
Become a Supporter 

California Without Daylight Saving? Arizona Shares Lessons From 50 Years Of Noncompliance

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The sun sets over Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Next Sunday, most Americans will change their clocks back to standard time, “falling back” after a summer of extended daylight hours. But California’s Proposition 7 could bring the state one step closer to eliminating the time-shift altogether

The measure doesn’t actually abolish daylight saving. It does repeal the 1949 rule that established the practice in California. This would allow the Legislature to look at other options, like keeping daylight saving year round or staying on standard time permanently. Their bill would need a two-thirds vote, and then Congressional approval.

Democratic Assemblymember Kansen Chu — the lawmaker who’s been pushing this for years — says switching the clocks is bad for people’s health, and causes traffic accidents.

The Uniform Time Act of 1966 established the twice-a-year clock change in the United States. In  1974, then-president Richard Nixon signed an order declaring clocks would spring forward one hour on Jan.6, and stay that way until April 1975. It was part of an effort to save energy during wartime. But people disliked the dark mornings so much that they switched the clocks again that following fall.

Arizona abolished daylight saving time more than 50 years ago after public outcry over the practice. CapRadio checked in with historian Calvin Schermerhorn at Arizona State University to find out how life in permanent standard time works over there.

On how long Arizona has been skipping out on daylight saving time, and why

It tried it in 1967, and the reasons why daylight saving time were instituted in the first place did not apply to Arizona. Basically that meant that instead of an extra hour of daylight to be outdoors, it was an extra hour of air conditioning to cool businesses, schools and automobiles. And people didn’t really like that.

On what it took to ban the practice

It was public outcry. It was outcry from parents, and educators, and business people. Just good old fashioned democratic protest against changing the rules and making life more difficult for everyone.

The Uniform Time Act of 1966 allowed states to opt out. There was nothing they needed to do [beyond passing a state law]. They didn’t run afoul of federal law. Until then, states had sort of formulated their own policies. It was loosely cooperative, but it didn’t always work

On the last 50 years in permanent standard time

I guess it’s been going fine. But the problem is, for half the year we have to readjust, or tell people we’re still on Mountain Standard Time. Which means, for all intents and purposes that’s Pacific Daylight Time. We’re three hours from the east coast instead of two. And then it’s a little bit difficult for businesses to sync with those times, although with automation it happens automatically.  

And then there’s a further twist, which is that the Navajo nation, which is in the northern part of the state, keeps its time with its neighbors in Colorado and other states that do daylight saving. So if you go through the Navajo nation you have to switch to Mountain Daylight Time. But then the Hopi nation, which is in the same vicinity, does not participate in daylight saving time. So depending on your route through Arizona, you might have to switch your clocks back and forth several times.

On Arizonans’ feelings about the matter

Most Arizonans are pretty proud of this noncompliance with a federal regulation. In keeping with their self-described tradition of independence, I guess it’s in the vein of the original protest. It helps keep the power bills down a little bit, especially for those of us in the Sonoran desert. Another hour of daylight doesn’t necessarily add anything

Even if you’re farming — Arizona has quite a bit of agriculture — an extra hour of daylight doesn’t necessarily help things if you’ve got an extra hour of darkness in the morning when you’ve got to go out and gather crops or maintain the field.

Not everybody is happy about this. If you run a golf course, or a park, or some kind of outdoor attraction, an extra hour of daylight will help you. And studies of street crime have indicated that an extra hour of daylight actually does correlate with fewer instances of crime. So there’s always a tradeoff there.

On California’s future, should it succeed in nixing daylight saving as we know it

If California does withdraw, then there’s maybe an unbroken chain between Hawaii which does not participate and Arizona which does not participate, and most of the U.S. territories, like Puerto Rico do not participate. California may be a tipping point for others, at least in the west, to roll back the antiquated daylight savings time scheme.

Sign up for ReCap

and never miss the top stories

Delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.

Check out a sample ReCap newsletter.