The last couple weeks have been an emotional roller coaster.
On the up side, I've met the sponsors of bills to fix Daylight Saving Time clock changes in four states.
It seems like it shouldn't have to be said that those sponsors do a good job representing their constituents, but it does. It's a bit shocking how many "representatives" end up just doing the work of the lobbyists instead of the work of the people. The lobbyists hang around the state house all the time, and they are great people and do a great job. But they end up making it so that government is all about keeping the status quo in power, and not letting anything change.
The problem is that the future does not have a lobbyist. There's nobody out there making sure that things change for the better for real people.
Well, not many people.
There are a few elected officials who are truly inspirational in how they approach doing the people's business.
For the record, the ones I'm talking about here are:
- Lydia Brasch of Nebraska
- Cliff Pirtle of New Mexico
- Phil Covarrubias and Dan Pabon of Colorado
- Peter Lucido of Michigan
There are some others around the country, and I'll be writing about them here, but these five stand out for this simple reason: They took up the cause of Daylight Saving Time, even though there's no lobbyist pushing it. It won't help them on campaign contributions. The only good that can come from it is making the world a better place.
Getting the word out
Also on the up side of the roller-coaster equation is the public attention that this issue has gotten.
At the top of the list has to be this amazing story from The New Yorker.
It was such an honor to get a call from Alan Burdick, and then his story was just fantastic.
He may be the journalist best suited to write a story about Daylight Saving Time in the world right now, having just published a remarkable book, Why Time Flies. I'm in the middle of reading it now and am just soaking up every page.
When he called me, we got pretty wonky about "time" pretty quickly. I often hesitate before I get too philosophical about the nature of "time" itself. But talking with a guy who literally wrote the book... well... it was a fun conversation.
The story is awesome, hip-deep in New Yorker-y yumminess.
A nice article in Salon by Matthew Rozsa did a good job of explaining why this issue is becoming more mainstream all the time: science.
Readers of this blog won't be surprised because we cover all the research we can find here, and have for a couple of years.
But little by little reporters, legislators and people who are still groggy now a week later are realizing that there's steadily mounting evidence that changing the clocks twice a year is very bad for health, bad for business, and bad for kids.
Maybe that's just the way it goes. Science figures it out first. Citizens pick up on that, and understand it. Then it just takes a while longer for legislators to catch up.
The future doesn't have a lobbyist
The down side of the last couple weeks, of course, has been the failure of some of the bills. Most personal for me were two that died before my eyes. The one in my home state of Colorado was difficult to watch. One industry burped and legislators tripped over themselves to provide the Tums. I'll have a whole other blog post about that one soon.
And in New Mexico the defeat was especially painful.
Just after it happened, I made a short video with DST's most active activist in the Enchanted State, Benita Altamirano Riesgraf:
I sort of stepped on some of my words, so I want to be really clear:
One person killed this bill. Her name is Gail Chasey.
This bill in New Mexico was just excellent. The sponsor, Sen. Cliff Pirtle, has been working this issue for years now. His efforts in previous years were fraught with difficulties, as I wrote about on this blog.
He clearly did his homework for this session, and came up with a masterful bit of legislation.
As close readers of this blog know, I've been advocating that state elected officials pass a resolution instead of a bill. For many states, I think that's a great idea, and the passage of the resolution in California was an important step on that path.
But if a law can pass in a state, all the better.
Now, the following section is only for true DST nerds... feel free to skip over it.
DST Nerd Section
The reason Sen. Pirtle's bill was so good was that it fit perfectly with the existing laws — the 1918 'Act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States' and the 1966 'Uniform Time Act.'
Under those laws, especially the 1966 Act, states essentially are not allowed to go to year-round Daylight Saving Time. The only thing they can do is decide not to be in Daylight Saving Time, and just use standard time year-round. That's what Arizona and Hawaii did.
Business interests won't let most states do that. The golf and other recreation industries have gotten so accustomed to the extra sunshine after work in the summer that there is no going back on that for most states. (Nebraska, Nevada and a few others could be an exception there as the relative sunshine could work out fine for them.)
So, the language that Sen. Pirtle came up with after three years of working on it thread the needle just exactly right.
Essentially, the bill says that New Mexico is exercising its right under the existing law to go to standard time year round. Then at the same moment, the state will also move to the Central Time Zone year round. It borders Texas, which is in Central Time, so that works out.
Now for regular people in New Mexico, they will never even be aware of the fact that they are in Central Time. They would just "spring forward" in the spring of 2018 and then stay there, permanently. That's what the business interests AND the people of that state want: No clock changing, and plenty of time after school and work for recreation.
Then they would always be one hour off from Arizona, and if the lawmakers in Texas can do what they are trying to do, always be one hour off from Texas, just as they are now.
End of DST Nerd Section
So while that bill was legally spot-on, had wide support, passed a senate committee after a full hearing, passed the full senate, and then passed one house committee. After that, for reasons that are simply not available to any voter in New Mexico or anyone who doesn't have insider information, this is what happened next:
- The bill was assigned to go to a hearing in front of a second house committee.
- The committee chairwoman, Gail Chasey, scheduled it for a public hearing on the penultimate day of the New Mexico legislative session.
- Pirtle confirmed with Chasey that the hearing would happen at 1:30 p.m., and that a blogger with an interest in this topic (me) would be driving down from Denver to testify.
- At about 8 a.m., Chasey decided that the hearing would be in the morning instead of the agreed-on time of 1:30 in the afternoon. (I found out about this when I was at about Trinidad, Colo., more than half way to Santa Fe on I-25.)
- The hearing started in the morning, heard one bill, and then Chasey announced that she was adjourning the committee for the year, effectively killing the bill.
The words in that video that I kind of stepped on were these: "This is how cynicism is born."
Let me say it more clearly: "THIS IS HOW CYNICISM IS BORN."
One person was able to kill a bill with no hearing, no explanation, no reasons, no nothing.
Now, I have to give Chasey credit, she was willing to meet with me and Benita briefly. She didn't really want to hear anything we had to say, however, she only wanted to ask me one question, which was: "Why did you come from Colorado to do this?"
Now Benita is a much more generous person than me. She interpreted that question as genuine curiosity. I interpreted it not as a question, but an accusation. Who do you think you are coming here and telling us what to do?
Either way, I tried to explain that I came at the invitation of the sponsor as a leading voice on this issue because there are no business interests aligned. All I have is the facts, and the desires of the sleep-deprived people all over the country. But I didn't get that far.
She said her constituents were against it, and then disappeared into a closed-door meeting.
What constituents? Someone in Albuquerque really is in favor of changing the clocks twice a year? If there's even one person, I highly doubt they made their feelings known.
No, it wasn't her constituents. Hard to say what it was. Maybe some lobbyist got to her. Maybe she just doesn't like Pirtle, and didn't want him to get a "win."
Whatever it was, it was a subversion of the democratic process. It was ugly back-room politics. It stinks.
And it reflects the sad reality that the future does not have a lobbyist.
New Tone For This Blog
You may have picked up on the fact that this post is throwing a sharper elbow than previous posts. Before I railed against the status quo. Hard to do anything about that, but if the status quo has a name, it's a bit easier.
In New Mexico, the status quo has a name, and her name is Gail Chasey.
If I'm not able to fix this on a federal level, it means that people in New Mexico will be at a higher risk for heart attacks, strokes, seizures and car accidents. That's on Chasey. The people in New Mexico could have the joy now known by their neighbors in Arizona, getting to stay on one time year-round. But now they won't, and that, too, is on Chasey.
So let the word go out from here, from this post forward: If you are the status quo in your state, and you block a chance for your state to move forward, I will figure it out, and the readers of this blog will know who you are and what you did.
Now, this may not be the most polite way to run my all-volunteer effort. I am sorry about that. Civility is important to me.
But without the big bucks needed to hire a top lobbying firm, there just isn't any other way to get action, so that's why I'm taking this step.
Thank you for reading, and thanks for doing all you can to end Daylight Saving Time clock-changing insanity.