AUSTIN (Nexstar) — State lawmakers debated the merits of daylight saving time in a legislative hearing Wednesday.
Bills to exempt Texas from the time change are not new to the legislature, but the renewed push has gained momentum this session.
With the “spring forward” time change that took effect on March 11, Texans switched to a “lighter later” and “darker earlier” day.
House Bill 49 would keep Texas in Central Standard Time, which most people associate as lighter, “earlier” mornings.
“The state, acting under the exemption provisions of Section 3(a), Uniform Time Act of 1966 (15 U.S.C. Section 260a(a)), is exempt from the provisions of that law that establish daylight saving time. The exemption provided by this subsection applies to both the portion of the state using central standard time as the official standard time and the portion of the state using mountain standard time as the official standard time.”
San Antonio Republican State Rep. Lyle Larson said his bill “seeks to allow Texas voters to choose between keeping standard time year-round or observing daylight saving time year-round, provided the United States Congress amend the Uniform Time Act to allow this.”
“I’m tired of changing the clocks twice a year,” he said as he laid out his legislation. Larson said lawmakers have made nearly two-dozen attempts since the 1950s to tackle daylight saving time.
“We need to figure this out as a modern society about one time or the other,” he told the members of the House’s State Affairs committee.
“If the resolution passes the Legislature, the election would be held in November of this year,” Larson wrote in a post to social media.
Martha Haubluetzel drove more than 3 hours from the coastal town of Ingleside to the Capitol to tell lawmakers she worried about students who try to get to school in darker conditions after springing forward.
“It’s hazardous to bus students and those walking to school,” she said, encouraged that other states are in talks to nix time changes.
State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, filed a resolution that would put the decision in the hands of Texas voters.
“Instead of fall back and spring forward it would be a fall vote to stop a spring forward!” Bettencourt said in a statement.
According to Bettencourt, one of the justifications for keeping Daylight Saving Time is it reduces energy consumption.
“Studies on the issue have been mixed however, with a 2008 Department of Energy study finding that an extended Daylight Saving Time ‘saved about 0.5 percent (1.3 billion kilowatt hours) in total electricity per day’ over a four week extension,” Bettencourt’s office wrote. “A University of California Santa Barbara study however found that when Indiana moved to a statewide system in 2006 it caused a 1% increase in residential electricity use.”
The state would need federal approval to spring forward and stay there in order to remain in compliance with the Uniform Time Act, but would not need federal approval to fall back and stay there (opting out of daylight saving time).
Daylight saving time was based on a need to try to conserve coal during World War I, but agriculture producers have reaped the benefits of days that are lighter later.
“As the days get longer you have more time to work outside,” Mary Jane Buerkle, with Plains Cotton Growers, said. She said she personally prefers the earlier mornings that come with standard time, because she does most of her work in the first part of the day.
“I bet you could find farmers on both sides,” Buerkle said.
President Donald Trump weighed in on the nationwide debate, tweeting: “Making Daylight Saving Time permanent is O.K. with me!”
“We’re balancing safety issues, recreational issues, after people get off work, and energy issues that are inconsequential these days,” Larson said Wednesday. “It’s idiotic that we continue to follow this pattern.”
The Texas proposal would also apply to the far West portion of the state using mountain standard time.