Golf was the center of much of the debate Friday over a bill that would exempt Nebraska from participating in daylight saving time.Nebraska would become the third state in the country to eliminate daylight saving time under LB 309, introduced by Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft.
Daylight saving time begins this year on Sunday, March 12., when clocks will "spring ahead" one hour. -Editor
Brasch said observing daylight saving time has negative effects on health and public safety, family life and student learning, among other issues.
"Daylight saving time, while a luxury for some, presents problems for others," Brasch said.
Brasch said the disruption of the circadian rhythm -- the body's internal clock -- may contribute to increased traffic accidents, decreased concentration, especially for students and children. There is also a higher risk of stroke and heart attack in the days immediately following the time change,
The amount of sleep lost or gained presents more problems than some may realize, Brasch said, especially for farmers.
Dairy farmers specifically, Brasch said, face difficulties when switching to and from daylight saving time.
"It's difficult to explain the theories of time to a cow," she said.
Brasch conceded that being the only state in the Midwest to not observe daylight saving time may present some confusion for travelers, but no more so than when traveling between central and mountain time zones.
Brasch introduced the bill before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee on Friday, March 3. She admitted she was pleasantly surprised to see the turnout of both opponents and proponents of the bill.
In total, four people spoke in favor of the bill, while four opposed it. The committee also received two letters of support for LB 309.
Becky Fausett and her step-son Isaac of Grand Island each spoke in favor of the bill. Both suffer from thesleep disorder narcolepsy, and Becky said it takes weeks for her to feel "like a healthy member of society again" after each change of the clocks.
Isaac, who said his epilepsy is also greatly affected by sleep patterns, said managing his sleep becomes even more important when switching to and from daylight saving time in order to prevent seizures.
Scott Yates, a Colorado volunteer who has advocated for several years the elimination of daylight saving time across the country, spoke in favor of the bill. Yates said more than 20 other states are considering similar legislation this year, and many have considered it in recent years, as well.
"It used to be seen as sort of an odd, niche issue that was kind of quirky and was fun to talk about, but there was really nothing we could do about it," Yates said, "and this year it feels like a pretty legitimate policy issue."
The main reason such bills often don't pass in other states, he said, is because many want to eliminate the clock change but not give up the additional daylight hours.
Yates said, Nebraska is in a unique position geographically to lead the charge in eliminating daylight saving time. It is at the far west end of the central time zone, where daylight hours are already later than many other states in the Midwest.
Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue, a member of the committee, said while she recognized the potential health benefits associated with eliminating daylight saving time, she was concerned about the economic effect of the bill.
Blood said Omaha is home to the most golf courses per capita.
"Nebraskans take golfing very seriously,” she said.
David Honnens, representing the Nebraska Golf Alliance, said there are 286 golf courses in Nebraska, and many rely heavily on golfers who play after 4 p.m. With one less hour of daylight in the evening, Honnens said, it would be difficult for golfers to play 18 holes after work, and golf courses could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result.
In 2011, then-Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman recognized golf as a $260 million industry in Nebraska. Honnens said it has only grown since then.
Honnens was also concerned about the loss of activity that might come with the elimination of daylight saving time, particularly among those whose primary method of exercise is golf.
Some proposed remaining in daylight saving time year-round, but Brasch noted that federal law doesn't permit states to do so.
States may choose whether to participate in daylight saving time -- giving the option to "spring forward" and "fall back," or not "spring forward" at all, but not to "spring forward" and stay there.