JD Hayworth talks about the effects of daylight saving time on Arizona and the rest of the country.
You might regard this column as a form of bedtime story, just devoid of the opening words, “Once Upon a Time.”
Instead, this concerns the way we keep time.
The two words “fall back” were music to the ears of residents in 48 of our 50 states early on Sunday, Nov. 7. When clocks struck 2 a.m. in time zones across the USA, they were moved back an hour, to 1 a.m. — or, as most everyday folks did it, by setting their clocks back an hour when they went to bed Saturday evening. Consider it “chronological recompense,” restoring the hour of sleep that was taken last March, when the return of daylight saving time (DST) prompted a “spring forward.”
Of course, those of us in Arizona didn’t lose any sleep over this. That’s because the Grand Canyon State — like Hawaii — stays on standard time year-round. To out-of-state family, friends and business associates, “Arizona time” is usually explained in this fashion: “When you’re on daylight saving time we’re on ‘LA time.’ When you’re on standard time, we’re on ‘Denver Time.’ The only exception comes on the Navajo Nation, in the northeast region of the state; it goes to DST, too!”
Whatever aggravation arises in offering the above explanation is rationalized away by recalling the absence of changing our clocks and altering sleep habits in Arizona…unless you find yourself visiting the Navajo Nation.
What prompted Arizona to remain on standard time throughout the year?
It’s tempting to tell a tale described as a combination of political intrigue and special interests.
Actually, it’s a bit less sensational than that.
When the 1966 Uniform Time Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, it ended the random way in which the states had been observing DST. The act stipulated that states must change to daylight saving time on a specified date or remain on standard time throughout the year.
Arizona in 1966 differed greatly from Arizona today. With a less-populated state in the mid-sixties, there was more farming and ranching. With limited technology, there were fewer entertainment options. Accordingly, two of the most powerful lobbies were the Arizona Cotton Growers and the Association of Drive-In Theatre Operators.
Simply stated, those agrarian and entertainment interests realized that starting movies around 9 p.m. in the summer months would impair farmhands’ ability to show up for work early in the morning.
That argument prevailed in the state Legislature, and Arizona remained on standard time.
Arizona’s Barry Goldwater may have challenged LBJ for the presidency in 1964, but the 1966 law which gave states the power to opt out of DST if they so desired proved — well, “timely.”
The act was vindicated in another fashion by the Commonwealth of Virginia, according to the late Rep. Herb Bateman. In the mid-1990s, Rep. Bateman welcomed his GOP colleagues to Virginia’s First District for a Republican Retreat. Herb proudly called his district “America’s First District,” because it included Jamestown, site of the first permanent English settlement that eventually became the United States.
Prior to serving in the U.S. House, Rep. Bateman spent a dozen years in the Virginia State Senate. Recalling lessons he learned in Richmond, Herb emphasized that arriving at a political decision, even if controversial, was infinitely preferable to dithering and delay.
What galvanized his outlook was the reticence of Virginia Legislators to deal with a dilemma that dogged the Commonwealth before Bateman ever ran for public office — deciding whether his home state would opt for daylight saving time. Not wishing to anger constituents, the House of Delegates and the State Senate left the DST decision to Virginia’s 95 counties. As a result, some counties adopted daylight saving time; others stayed on standard time; and a handful “compromised” by moving their clocks ahead by a half-hour!
The Uniform Time Act of 1966 ensured that Virginia would have to decide, and the Old Dominion legislators finally did so, determining that the Commonwealth would find common ground through daylight saving time, putting an end to the “counterfeit compromise” of letting the counties decide.
Today, 19 states have decided that they want a permanent time change, passing resolutions to provide for year-round daylight saving time.
Arizona and Virginia are not among them.
Could it be that we fear Bob Dylan’s old refrain?
“The times…they are a-changin’.”