A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

22 February 2017

Daylight saving time repeal passes senate 36–14 on 3rd reading

SB-206 now goes to the Montana House, where its evening darkness loving supporters will try to whoop it through without meaningful deliberation, just as it was whooped through the Montana Senate.

On the third reading, Democrat Mary McNally (Billings) and Republican Jeffrey Welborn (Dillion) changed their votes from Nay to Aye, increasing the reactionary bill’s veto proof margin.

An extra hour of daylight is much more useful in the evening than in the morning, before people on the clock leave for their jobs and classrooms. In the Flathead (download spreadsheet), daylight saving time extends the sunset to 2142 MDT in mid-June, and the end of civil twilight to 2200 or later from 24 May through 25 July. Tourists and people with day jobs like that. Regressing to Mountain Standard Time would make the Flathead and western Montana less attractive to tourists.

So why this sneaky push, a push that’s on in other states, to repeal DST? Thus far, I’ve identified these arguments:

  • DST doesn’t save energy. At best, the jury is out on that.

  • DST encourages people to go out and spend money in the evening instead of staying home, praying, and stuffing more dollars under their mattresses.

  • DST isn’t “natural.” Neither is standard time. What’s natural is local apparent time keyed on local solar noon (see analemma). That suffices for primitive societies, especially societies near the equator, but modern, industrial, societies must run by the clock.

  • Cows cut their output of milk during switches to and from DST. That was an especially potent argument I encountered in Minnesota decades ago. Apparently, there were big clocks in every milking stall and the temperamental bovines retaliated for the change by reducing their output of milk. At least that’s what I remember some farmers saying.

  • DST makes the sun rise too late, thus endangering school children in the morning. That’s an argument, but not a convincing one. Civil twilight for the Flathead commences at approximately 0730 or earlier through mid-October. If bus stops are well lighted, a few days of heading for school in the dark should not be a problem.

  • Changing clocks twice a year is a terrible bother that wastes time and distresses the fragile psyches of today’s Montanans. Many of my clocks make the switch automatically.

  • The twice-annual changeover coincides with increased automobile accidents. That’s possible, but surely there are ways to mitigate that. Even Montana’s drivers, who love to break the speed limit, who love to drink while driving, who love to drive while drunk, can eventually be retrained to be responsible whether or not they’re driving on DST.

  • DST is a Democratic policy that must be opposed on principle by Republicans, who are committed to remaining behind the times.

  • DST is a Republican plot to help businesses make more money, which is to say it's a plot to redistribute money from the poor to the rich.

  • DST is unnatural, not organic, an affront to the gods of the heavens and earth, an evil akin to requiring that only pasteurized milk can be sold. When the legislative session ends, I will see how well the votes against DST correlate with the votes for legalizing some sales of raw milk.

SB-206 can be killed in the Montana House, but only if the proponents of DST give their legislators an earful of sound arguments, delivered intensely but politely. They need to start now, to accost their legislators during the transmittal break.