1. Who has the power to change the local date/time of Washington D.C., and what is the extent of this power?

  2. Could this power be abused to extend/reduce the terms of elected officials?

Certainly the local time of Washington D.C. can be changed (e.g., time zones or daylight savings).

It is even conceivable that the local date of Washington D.C. could be changed (e.g., if the U.S. decided to hop over the international date line like Kiribati did).

So someone must have the power to change the local date/time of Washington D.C. The Standard Time Act of 1918 and the Uniform Time Act of 1966 suggest that the Congress & President have (a) the power to change local time and (b) the power to limit the power of states to change local time.

(related: In which timezone's "noon" does the US presidency turn over?)

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    I'm new here so could the downvoter explain: Is this question not within the scope of this site, or did I not show enough prior research? – user2395649 Mar 16 at 20:35
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    See politics.stackexchange.com/questions/61364/… Though I think this is a rather better question, than this related one – James K Mar 16 at 20:59
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    I downvoted because the effect of any such change would be trivial. – phoog Mar 17 at 1:21
  • Thanks for letting me know. I agree that in practice any such change would be trivial, but a well-timed time/date change could have a political impact, and theoretically the power is quite significant. – user2395649 Mar 17 at 2:00
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    @dan04 civil time in the US is based by statute on UTC, which implies the Gregorian calendar. The offsets of each time zone are also specified by statute, as noted in the accepted answer, so it would not be possible to put DC on UTC-4000 hours without enacting a new statute. – phoog Mar 17 at 22:15

There are two places where time zones are defined in the United States:

15 USC § 261 defines nine time zones, and the number of hours behind Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) each time zone is. This can only be changed by an Act of Congress.

49 CFR § 71 defines the boundaries between these time zones. These can be changed by order from the Secretary of Transportation.

In theory, the Secretary of Transportation could change regulations to move DC from UTC-5 (Eastern Time) to UTC-11 (American Samoa Time), but it would require an Act of Congress to move it any further than that.

  • Oh interesting, so states have basically no power other than choosing DST or not? – user2395649 Mar 16 at 20:57
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    Formally, yes. States could lobby the Secretary of Transportation to have it changed, but of course he would have to agree. – Joe C Mar 16 at 20:59
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    @user2395649 the secretary of transportation would also have to follow the administrative procedure act, which generally requires periods of public comment and probably some other formalities. – phoog Mar 17 at 1:26
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    Realistically, if the Secretary of Transportation did such a thing, I tend to suspect it would be reversed as arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act. Usually, that's a fairly low bar, but moving the timezone of DC from "the east coast" to "way out in the middle of the Pacific ocean" would be a very weird thing to do. The Secretary would need to provide a pretty good rationale for that (other than "the outgoing President wants to be President for a few more hours"). – Kevin Mar 17 at 17:40

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