Legislators push new bill to make daylight saving time permanent in the US

Proponents say practice is outdated

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola) (Elise Amendola, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The end of daylight saving time is near, and while some are ready to synchronize, others are looking to “lock the clock.”

Two Republican legislators are leading the national effort for the Sunshine Protection Act of 2021. In January, Congressman Vern Buchanan introduced H.R.69, and in March Sen. Marco Rubio introduced S.623. Both bills call for DST to become permanent in the U.S. year-round.

“The call to end the antiquated practice of clock changing is gaining momentum throughout the nation,” Rubio said in a statement. “Congress created Daylight Saving decades ago as a wartime effort, now it is well past time to lock the clock and end this experiment.”

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DST this year began at 2:00 a.m. Sunday, March 14, and will come to an end Sunday, Nov. 7, when we all “fall back” one hour to prevent early sunsets during the colder months.

Switching times for the seasons has been a source of serious discussion around the world for several years.

The suggestion of DST is first recorded as one of Benjamin Franklin’s ideas when he jokingly proposed it in a publication in 1784. He said waking up an hour earlier during summer months would conserve candles.

The idea was vehemently pushed during the 1800s by a New Zealand entomologist named George Vernon Hudson, who said he wanted more daylight time to collect and examine insects.

DST was finally put into practice during World War I to conserve energy and fuel.

Ever since then the U.S. and several countries worldwide have been adjusting their clocks, usually by one hour, twice a year: forward one hour in the warmer months, backward one hour in the colder months — both with the intention of making the most of daylight hours.

Historically, however, the practice has not come without debate. In fact, Hawaii, Arizona and several U.S. territories have never joined in on the practice, and Indiana only started doing it in 2006.

In the Sunshine State, the idea of switching back and forth between daylight saving and standard times has long been contested as having outlived its use, propelling several pieces of legislation proposing to end it. In 2018, the Florida House and Senate both approved bills stating their legislative intent to become the first state to make DST permanent. The bills passed with overwhelming majorities, 103–11 in the House and 33–2 in the Senate, receiving clear bipartisan support.

That same week, Sen. Marco Rubio led the Sunshine Protection Act of 2018, or S. 2537, which proposed making DST permanent across the country, not just Florida. While the Sun did not rise on the bill then, it opened the conversation on an idea that has been garnering more national support. Now the push is focused again on the Sunshine Protection Act.

Proponents claim the law would help boost the economy, as well as improve overall public health and even crime numbers.

Those arguing for permanent DST not only ends inconvenient and counterproductive time adjustments but, among other things, they also cite studies showing the potential for energy conservation and for an increase in activities of all kinds — outdoor, physical and commercial. More daylight in the evenings, proponents said, would reduce child obesity and robberies, while people shop and play more and use less power.

“I don’t know a parent of a young child that would oppose getting rid of springing forward or falling back,” Rubio said.

According to News 6 weather experts, things could “get weird” if DST becomes permanent.

“The time change, while inconvenient, allows us to save the daylight in the summer months and prohibits an extremely late sunrise in the middle of winter,” News 6 Meteorologist Jonathan Kegges said.

The Florida Parent Teacher Association has been opposing the bills since their inception, urging legislators to think of the children. With darker mornings, they argue, younger students would be forced to walk to school or stand at bus stops in cold, pitch-black mornings, and inexperienced teenager drivers would be out, increasing safety risks.

“We don’t need more children standing in the dark waiting for a bus,” a Florida PTA Legislative Committee tweet said.

Opponents also pose that with the constant use of electronics, online shopping and air conditioning any energy-saving arguments fall flat, as any real savings would be negligible.

“If that’s the case, the argument goes, then why go through such a massive disruptive change?” A GovTrack.com bill recap said.

The law for sunnier evenings has almost full support in the Sunshine State, but if Florida were to pass a year-long DST rule on their own, it would become the only eastern time zone state not following DST.

While he never outwardly opposed or supported the movement for permanent DST in Florida, former Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson once told the Orlando Sentinel it would not be practical to move forward with the idea unless all 50 states agreed.

“Having Florida observe year-round daylight-saving time without all 50 states participating would cause all kinds of havoc and confusion for businesses and the public,” he said.

About the Author:

Lillian M. Hernández Caraballo joined News 6 in September.