Legislature rejects year-round daylight saving or standard time

Feb. 5, 2024, 4 p.m. ·

Senator Steve Erdman during debate Monday (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)
Sen. Steve Erdman during debate Monday (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

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Nebraskans will continue to switch their clocks twice a year, after senators rejected proposals Monday to stick with standard time or daylight saving time year-round.

Sen. Danielle Conrad, lead sponsor of the proposal to switch to year-round daylight saving time, said people are tired of changing their clocks twice a year.

“When you look at the polling, when you talk to your neighbors, well north of 60% of Americans are tired of changing our clocks twice a year. It is disruptive from a health perspective, from a conservation perspective, from a parenting perspective, and it definitely impacts economic issues as well,” Conrad said.

Sen. Steve Erdman offered an amendment that would also do away with the time change, but by sticking to year-round standard time, rather than daylight saving time. Sen. Dave Murman supported Erdman’s approach.

“Ensuring we have sunny mornings may seem like a simple convenience issue. But the reality is it's a public health issue and a public safety issue. Our bodies and brains have a natural need for sunlight in the day and dark in the night,” Murman said.

Other senators said they preferred to keep things as they are. Sen. Rob Clements said Congress had approved yearlong daylight saving time in 1973 but reversed that decision in 1974 amid concerns about children going to school in the dark, and some children being killed by sleep-deprived drivers. Clements said standard time works well in the winter, and daylight saving time works well in the summer.

“Most work and school starts at 8 a.m., and 8 a.m. daylight savings time January 16 in Omaha is dark. But with standard time, 8 a.m. in Omaha is daylight. And also, I do appreciate daylight savings time in the summertime. My family does outdoor activities then. And I would prefer the system that we currently have,” Clements said.

Sen. Joni Albrecht said the proposed changes would cause confusion by putting her northeast Nebraska district out of synch with businesses in neighboring Iowa and South Dakota. Sen. Julie Slama voiced a similar concern.

“I don't think people realize how bad of a deal this is going to end up being. Like, Nebraska will be on its own in terms of where our clocks are for certain periods of the year,” Slama said.

The newest member of the Legislature, Sen. Fred Meyer, expressed surprise senators were spending so much time debating what he called a trivial issue.

“If only things in our daily lives were as simple as changing our clocks twice a year. I know my life is much more complicated than that. There's much bigger issues than changing clocks. I think this issue is much to do about nothing,” Meyer said.

As debate wound down, senators voted 25-19 against Erdman’s proposal for year-round standard time, which federal law permits, and which Arizona and Hawaii observe.

By contrast, the proposal to switch to year-round daylight saving time would require agreement by three neighboring states and Congress. Conrad said 19 states, including Colorado and Wyoming, have already voted in favor of the change, although Erdman said Wyoming is reconsidering. After his amendment was rejected, Erdman urged his colleagues to reject the remaining proposal, to switch to year-round daylight saving time.

“This is now a nothing bill. This does absolutely, absolutely nothing, okay? So just know if you vote green (yes) on this, that your vote is absolutely wasted because this is going to be something that will never be decided by Congress,” Erdman said.

Senators then voted 25-14 against advancing the bill, meaning Nebraska will continue to switch between standard time and daylight saving time twice a year.