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Daylight saving time measure clears House Committee in split vote

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OKLAHOMA CITY – One state legislator is teed off about a proposal to exempt Oklahoma from the federal observance of daylight saving time.

But, a majority of a House panel believes DST has outlived its usefulness and favors year-round clock consistency.

According to a press release, House Bill 2557 by Rep. Harold Wright, R-Weatherford, received a “do pass” recommendation on a 4-3 vote Wednesday by the House Committee on State and Federal Relations.

Rep. Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs, filed an identical measure, House Bill 2853, but scuttled it in favor of Wright’s bill.

Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell, presented HB 2557 on behalf of Wright, who had another commitment.

If DST were repealed in Oklahoma, clocks would “stay the way they are right now instead of ‘springing forward’,” Russ explained. “We’re trying to be consistent.”

Dusk in the summer would arrive about 8-8:30 p.m. instead of 9-9:30 p.m., he said.

However, “We’d see daybreak about 4 a.m.,” said Rep. Mark Lepak, R-Claremore. “We would be out of step, or out of time, with most of the rest of the country” if HB 2557 is enacted.

And, Oklahoma companies might encounter problems in their dealings with businesses in other states and foreign nations, because of time conflicts, he suggested.

Daylight saving time is the practice of setting clocks forward by one hour during the warmer part of the year, so that evenings have more daylight and mornings have less.

“We’d get the same amount of daylight” in a 24-hour period if DST were repealed, said Rep. Ken Walker, R-Tulsa.

But, Rep. Sally Kern maintained that, “Some people would prefer to have daylight in the evening” rather than in the morning.

“Thousands of people play golf after work,” she asserted. “I think this would have a huge economic impact on golf courses and other businesses, and would impact a lot of people.”

Abandoning DST also would have an effect on farmers and children who ride buses to school, the committee was reminded.

Kouplen said he filed his bill to abandon DST because of several requests from constituents and for medical reasons.

According to the release, research has shown an increase in heart attacks and traffic accidents in the days immediately after clocks are pushed forward one hour each spring.

Advancing the clock forward for DST results in the loss of an hour of sleep on the morning after the change, and it disrupts the body’s circadian (biological) rhythm.

Daylight saving time has had an erratic history in the United States.

According to the release, Germany was the first nation to observe DST in 1916 during World War I in an effort to conserve fuel.

The United States adopted the practice in 1918, however DST was unpopular and Congress abolished it after the war.

The practice of DST resumed in 1942 after the outbreak of World War II and continued until September 1945, shortly after the war ended.

For the next two decades, until 1966, there was no federal law on DST, so localities had the option of choosing when it began and ended or dropping it entirely.

By 1962, the transportation industry found the lack of consistency confusing enough to press for renewed federal regulation of DST.

Starting in 1967, the Uniform Time Act mandated standard time within the established time zones and provided for advanced time: clocks would be advanced one hour on the last Sunday in April and turned back one hour on the last Sunday in October.

Congress, in an effort to conserve fuel during the 1973 oil embargo by the Arab Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, enacted a trial period of year-round DST, which started in January 1974 and ended in April 1975.

When the trial ended, the nation returned to observing summer DST.

In 1986, Congress amended the Uniform Time Act by changing the beginning of DST to the first Sunday in April and ending on the last Sunday in October.

Effective in 2007, DST begins on the second Sunday of March and ends on the first Sunday in November.

According to the release, moving a state onto or off of DST requires legal action at the state level, either by legislation or a governor’s executive order.

A state may exempt itself from DST but, if a state decides to embrace DST, its dates of observance must comply with the federal legislation.

Despite common misconception, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin did not actually propose daylight saving time; 18th century Europe did not even keep precise schedules.

Modern DST was first proposed in 1895 by a New Zealand entomologist whose shift-work job gave him leisure time to collect insects and led him to value after-hours daylight.