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Daylight saving time bill sparks debate

SALEM — The twice-a-year ritual of resetting clocks would come to an end under two bills introduced in the Oregon Senate.

A Senate committee held a brief discussion of the issue Tuesday, but it did not vote on the bills.

The idea has cropped up in more than a half-dozen statehouses, but it's generated more talk than action. In Oregon, there was no sign that lawmakers seemed ready to depart from the other two states in the Pacific time zone.

Still, the proposal invited dozens of emailed comments from constituents to lawmakers

"A great number of people have written in saying, 'We should just abolish this. We don't need to have this archaic practice any longer,'" said Sen. Kim Thatcher of Keizer, a Republican who sponsored one of the bills on behalf of a constituent. "There are also a lot of people on the other side of the issue saying, 'I would miss daylight savings time.' "

Time-change lovers say it would be chaotic for Oregon to depart from its West Coast neighbors, with which it shares the strong economic and cultural ties, making it more difficult to commute or plan meetings. They say daylight saving time allows more sun for evening recreation and family activities, and it pushes more driving trips into daylight hours.

Critics of daylight saving time point to the irritating ritual of resetting clocks each time we "spring forward" or "fall back." They say it causes health problems by disrupting the body's natural timekeeping, and it likely contributes to diminished productivity in the days following a time change.

Furthermore, they say it hasn't delivered on its promise of reducing energy costs. A study by researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara found an increase in energy use when Indiana adopted daylight saving time statewide. It had previously been observed only there only in some counties. The researchers found that decreases in lighting costs were offset by higher demand for heating and cooling.

Thatcher's bill would ask voters in the 2016 election whether to ditch daylight saving time. If they approve, it would take effect in 2021, giving plenty of time for software programmers and other business interests to prepare. In addition to eliminating daylight saving time, Thatcher said she might prefer to change the state to the Mountain time zone so it would benefit from the additional evening sunlight year round.

Another bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas, also at the behest of a constituent, would make the change almost immediately. "Constituents who have reached out to me approach this from a perspective of every time you switch it costs money," Boquist said.

Now that Indiana has adopted daylight saving time statewide, only two states, Arizona and Hawaii, have held on to standard time year round. An Arizona lawmaker wrote a bill this year that would have put the state on daylight saving time, but he quickly withdrew it after the response was overwhelmingly negative.