ASSOCIATED PRESS
Custodian Ray Keen checks the time on a clock face after changing the time on the 97-year-old clock atop the Clay County Courthouse, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010, in Clay Center, Kan.

SALT LAKE CITY — Politics is not without ironies. A resolution to urge Congress to let states keep daylight saving time year-round nearly ran out of time on the final day for committee hearings at the Utah Legislature.

By the time the sponsor, Rep. Marsha Judkins, R-Provo, began her presentation, only seven minutes remained in the meeting.

It sure would have been nice to have an extra hour. But, of course, we had all left that in our beds Sunday morning.

What we hadn’t left behind were our yawns and “microsleeps.” That’s a word sleepdex.org uses to describe “brief, unintended episodes of loss of attention associated with events such as blank stares, head snapping and prolonged eye closure.”

The layman might call this “zoning out.” We do a lot of that the week after the time change, apparently.

Bills to do something about this are perpetual crowd pleasers at the Legislature, until it comes time for a committee vote. This year was no exception. Judkins made her presentation, complete with studies showing the harmful physical and mental side effects of messing with the clocks. But her original bill had called for Utah voters to weigh in on the time change with a nonbinding ballot item in the fall — something that undoubtedly would have given many a sense of pleasure as they broke the nibs of their pens trying to cast emphatic votes.

By the time the committee got the bill, however, the vote was gone. Judkins told me she couldn’t get a favorable vote as long as it was there. Federal law makes it illegal for states to adopt daylight saving time permanently. Their only option is to adopt standard time or keep the status quo, and lawmakers here don’t want to be pioneers in that field.

But take heart — the clock may be running out on this twice yearly irritation.

California, Florida and many other states are building a momentum that might, finally, provide the energy Congress needs to act. Judkins said 160 bills are pending across 30 states, something the Washington Post this week said was putting time change “under legislative challenge from coast to coast.”

It might even be out of states’ hands soon. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate that would make daylight saving time permanent from coast to coast. A similar bill was introduced in the House.

Indeed, a top-down solution from Washington seems in order. Conservatives might argue that the clock is a states’ rights issue, but history shows states are quite capable of making a mess of things. Not too many years ago, Kentucky was considering making standard time permanent. Part of that state is in the Central time zone and part in Eastern. At the same time, Utah was pushing to make daylight saving permanent. This might have set up a complicated mess in which Utah would be on Central time and Kentucky on Mountain time part of the year.

Airline schedulers and conference organizers might have required medication.

As for Judkins’ resolution, the House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee ended up passing it, despite the lack of time. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had passed the House and was poised for a Senate run.

It is now just a piece of paper urging Congress to act, but that’s probably the best hope.

Efforts to permanently enshrine standard time always brings out golfers and farmers, both of which mount strong lobbies.

17 comments on this story

Golfers like the extra hour of sunlight during the warm months. Rural Utahns need the extra hour of light because many of them work day jobs, then come home to complete farm chores at night.

Neither one, I presume, would mind a permanent daylight saving time. Only the few of you who write to me each year to say you enjoy making the switch would be unhappy, but I doubt you could fill a very big room.

Parents might object because it would mean children would have to go to school in the dark much of the year, but at least they wouldn’t be doing so while prone to “microsleeps” twice a year.

The thought of that ought to be enough to perk you up.