Yesterday afternoon I had a 10 minute phone call with a member of the staff from the Office of the General Counsel at the US Department of Transportation. He mentioned my Emails to a couple of members of his staff, where I had requested some information regarding Year-Round Daylight Saving Time and changing state’s Time Zones.
The staff member agreed to discuss my requests for information on an informal basis, under the advice that this was not official US DOT direction or guidance.
During our conversation, the staff member confirmed (again, informally) a number of things that Time Zone Report has been advising:
- States can opt out of DST, or they can stay with DST as defined in 15 USC 260a – no other option is permitted, such as Year-Round DST. He said, “We have no discretion there, the Congress and Statute is clear.”
- US DOT is unlikely to approve any state’s request to change time zones.
Would Congress Change Current DST Regulation?
We also discussed whether or not Congress could be persuaded to change 15 USC 260a and allow states another DST option of “Year-Round DST”. I mentioned the state of Washington’s SCR 1 which requests Congress to make the change, and the staff member replied, “That is how you would do it. Whether they have any appetite to do so, I doubt it.”
I asked, “If 10 or 12 or 15 states wrote to Congress to say ‘look, we really want to look into this [concept of Year-Round Daylight Saving Time], at least at that point there would be some attention given to it.” He responded with, “I think that’s certainly reasonable. Once they can cite it through their congressional representation, if you start getting that sort of mass, it will get some traction, but … what I really think would happen before that came up is that either DOT or somebody else would be assigned to do a study of that and see what the impact would be.”
So, to states that really think Year-Round DST is a good idea: send an official communication to Congress requesting that they change 15 USC 260a to permit it. That’s the only way to make this happen.
Changing Time Zones
The staff member mentioned Utah’s efforts to move from Mountain to Central when I brought up the topic of changing time zones. He added, “That’s a very ‘heavy lift’ for that state, and I’ve let a couple of people in that state know that already.”
Moving a whole state out of a time zone goes against statutory requirements, and US DOT is mandated by Congress to uphold the statutes. But at a town or county level that sits on a state border, for example, where the population really operates together with the local jurisdictions in another state that just happen to be in another time zone — this is where the DOT can rule officially to make a time zone switch. See, for example, the most recent action of this sort with Wayne County, Kentucky. Look at this excerpt from an August 2000 issue of the Federal Register to see their story (starts near the bottom of the first column, of this 5-page excerpt).
My Bottom Line
My conversation with the staff member was informative, but revealed nothing contrary to what I already understood. States can do only the following:
- Do nothing, and follow standard DST starting the second Sunday in March and ending the first Sunday in November.
- Opt out of DST entirely, like the states of Arizona and Hawaii have done.
- Ask Congress to change the law to permit other options like Year-Round DST.
End of story. Any other legislation relating to time zones or DST is futile.