by Lowman S. Henry | March 11, 2024

“In Pennsylvania the incremental is revolutionary.”

That was a comment made by former Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai on occasion of his retirement from the lower chamber. It is reflective of the fact that here in the Keystone state, legislatively at least, it is so difficult to bring about change that even small changes are a big deal.

There are two timely reminders of the inability of the legislature to bring about change: the semi-annual ritual of switching between standard time and daylight savings time; and the fact that once again Pennsylvania’s presidential primary will be held well after the party nominations have been decided.

For many years State Representative Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon) has proposed legislation designed to end the practice of changing back and forth between standard and daylight savings time. Aside from getting the representative some good media coverage twice a year the legislation has – pardon the pun – not seen the light of day.

A bit more progress has been made at the federal level. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) has introduced the so-called Sunshine Protection Act which would make daylight savings time permanent. The bill did pass in the U.S. Senate then stalled in the House of Representatives. Rubio is continuing his fight to give the Sunshine state, and the rest of us, more sunlight.

Complicating efforts to end the clock switching practice is a debate over whether to end daylight savings time, essentially making standard time permanent, or to make daylight savings time permanent ending the use of standard time. Opinions are split. I favor making daylight savings time permanent as more sunlight later in the day would be more useful for sports and other recreational activities.

Moving the date of the Pennsylvania Presidential Primary election has been debated quadrennially for decades. The state’s late April primary most of the time has fallen so late in the process earlier voting states have already determined the party’s nominees. There have been several exceptions. The 2008 race for the Democratic Presidential Nomination between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was not decided until the very end of the primary schedule. In 2016 Donald Trump and Ted Cruz were still battling for the Republican Presidential Nomination when Pennsylvania held its April primary.

For a few months last year, it appeared that the date of the 2024 primary would be changed. This year’s Pennsylvania presidential primary falls during the Jewish observance of Passover providing an added reason to move the election date.

The state senate did pass a bill moving the primary date to early March. Then Governor Josh Shapiro reneged on a budget deal he had negotiated with senate Republicans and the legislative process ground to a halt. By the time the smoke cleared months had passed before house Democrats offered their own date change which differed from that passed in the senate. The chambers were unable to reach an agreement on a date. By October it had become logistically too late to move the primary, so the April 23rd election date remains in place.

And so, with President Biden having faced no serious opposition to re-nomination and Donald Trump quickly wrapping up the GOP nomination Pennsylvania voters will again have no say in the presidential nomination process. However, Pennsylvania will be a key, if not THE key, battleground state headed into the general election campaign which is now underway.

Looking ahead lawmakers would be well advised to begin the process of moving the 2028 Pennsylvania Presidential Primary election date now. It takes time logistically for counties to prepare for an election and knowing the date several years in advance would make the election run much more smoothly.

An earlier presidential primary date in 2028 make sense in that regardless of who wins the White House this November both party nominations will be wide open as neither President Biden nor former President Trump would be eligible to run again. Pennsylvania voters deserve to have a significant voice in that process.

Who knows? Perhaps in 2028 we can even hold our primary before we once again return to daylight savings time.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly American Radio Journal and Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is [email protected].)

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