Saturday, 20 Apr 2024

Bill to Make Daylight Saving Permanent Re-emerges From the Dark

Just when sun worshipers lost hope for longer days in gloomy winter months, the Senate may give permanent daylight saving another try.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida reintroduced the Sunshine Protection Act in the Senate on Wednesday, months after the same bill, which the Senate passed unanimously last March, died in the House at the end of the last session. The bill would end the practice of turning the clocks back one hour to standard time every November and make daylight saving time, which currently begins in March, last throughout the year.

“This ritual of changing time twice a year is stupid,” Mr. Rubio, a Republican, said in a statement on Thursday. “Locking the clock has overwhelming bipartisan and popular support.”

Senator Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts and a co-sponsor of the bill, said Americans “are sick of this tired tradition” and called on Congress to act.

“The law that first forced Americans to change their clocks twice a year is literally older than sliced bread,” Mr. Markey said in a statement. “We have the momentum right now in Congress to build on the progress I’ve made over the years to add two months of sunny evenings to everyone’s calendar, but we need Republicans and Democrats to come together to deliver more sun, more smiles, and brighter skies for everyone.”

Turning the clocks back has been an American ritual since 1918, when Congress passed the Standard Time Act to establish federal oversight of time zones. Benjamin Franklin is often credited with introducing the idea of daylight saving in 1784 with a satirical letter to the editor of a Paris publication in which he suggested that the French fire cannons at sunrise to wake people and reduce candle consumption at night.

For much of the 19th century, time was set according to the sun, creating a chaotic patchwork of “sun times.” In the 1840s, British railroads adopted standard times to reduce confusion, and Americans soon followed. By 1918, the federal government began regulating time zones and the United States “lost” its first hour of sleep.

Proponents of the bill have argued that a permanent change would make people more productive, well-rested and happy, as some research has suggested. The retail and leisure industries have argued that more daylight could mean more spending hours. Others, including many farmers, find the time change counterproductive, but favor making standard time permanent.

Sleep scientists argue that the shorter winter days provide better sleeping conditions and are more aligned with circadian rhythms. In 2020, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine called for the abolition of the spring switch to daylight saving time, pointing to evidence of a possible increased risk of heart attacks and car accidents in the days after the time change.

The annual time change has been at the root of missed meetings, class tardiness and the winter blahs (at least once a year).

The Transportation Department, which oversees the nation’s time zones, said that at least 45 states have proposed legislation since 2015 to either change their observance of daylight saving time or establish permanent standard time. Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and most of Arizona have done away with daylight saving time entirely, meaning they never get the extra daylight in the spring.

Thus far, states have not been permitted to make daylight saving permanent.

“If a state chooses to observe daylight saving time, it must begin and end on federally mandated dates,” the Transportation Department’s website says. The department says that states “may choose to exempt themselves from observing daylight saving time by state law,” but adds that “states do not have the authority to choose to be on permanent daylight saving time.”

That process might be tricky; the department’s inspector general found in a report in September that the agency was not equipped to handle states’ requests to drop daylight saving time.

The United States attempted to leave clock-switching behind in 1974. But after widespread discontent just eight months into what was supposed to be a two-year experiment, the country abandoned permanent daylight saving time and went back to flipping the clocks twice a year.

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