As much of the nation readies for the beginning of daylight saving time on Sunday, March 12, the annual practice of time changes is a topic of discussion in nearly half of all statehouses. A U.S. Senate effort also would end the practice of changing clocks in the spring and fall.
Elected officials from both sides of the aisle are pursuing the abandonment of twice-annual time changes. Among the reasons given by government officials for taking action on the issue is traffic safety.
Cases for and against
Daylight saving time was observed in the United States for a period during both World Wars. In 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act that made biannual time changes the norm.
Federal law does not require states to observe daylight saving time, but if they choose to follow the time change they must adhere to the dates set.
The U.S. Department of Transportation states that daylight time is observed because it saves energy, saves lives and prevents traffic injuries and reduces crime.
Critics counter the time changes may have been useful for some during a bygone era but it provides little if any real benefit.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine opposed the Sunshine Protection Act that would have made daylight saving time permanent starting in November of this year. The group supports permanent standard time, which they say has shown is the healthier option.
The group states, “as described in an AASM daylight saving time position statement published in 2020, standard time aligns best with human circadian biology and provides distinct benefits for public health and safety.”
NBC News reports the American Association of School Administrators is concerned about early morning transportation issues and school days starting in the dark.
For example, near Madison, Wis., for much of December and January, the sun does not come up until 7:30 a.m. on standard time. Seattle is even more extreme, with sunrise happening around 8 a.m. Under year-round daylight saving time, that would be 9 a.m.
AARP also reports a 24% spike in heart attacks following the switch to daylight saving time and 8% higher risk of a stroke in the two days following the time change.
State legislatures pursue change
Since 2018, elected officials in the majority of statehouses annually have at least discussed legislation to end the observance of time changes. During that time, 19 states have acted on the issue.
Federal law permits a state to exempt itself from observing daylight time. Arizona and Hawaii are the lone states to take advantage of the exemption. The feds, however, do not allow states to stay on daylight time throughout the year. Instead, Congress must sign-off on granting states the privilege.
Florida lawmakers got the ball rolling on the issue in 2018 when the Legislature acted to adopt year-round daylight time once the feds permit states to make the change.
Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Wyoming have since enacted legislation.
Despite their interest in making the change, states continue to await Congressional authorization.
In 2015, the Nevada Senate adopted a resolution to encourage the feds to act on the issue. Legislatures in Ohio, Oregon and Utah have since done the same.
So far this legislative session more than 50 measures in at least 22 states have been offered on the topic.
Legislative efforts from Alaska to Vermont are divided between states with legislation to keep daylight saving time year-round and others to abandon observance of the spring time change. Some states have legislation on both sides of the issue.
Most states that continue to address the issue are pursuing legislation to adopt daylight saving time year-round. States with legislation to stay on daylight saving time year-round: Alaska, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Vermont.
States with legislation to stay on standard time throughout the year have been offered in Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vermont.
Bills in Connecticut and New York would convert the state to Atlantic Standard Time all year. As a result, the state would eliminate daylight saving time.
The New York bill sponsor points out the distinction would allow the state to make the time shift through a regulatory process by the U.S. DOT, instead of waiting for an act of Congress.
Efforts in Virginia and Wyoming failed to advance during recently completed regular sessions.
The Virginia bill called for observing daylight saving time all year.
The Wyoming version sought to reverse course from a 2021 state law to stay on daylight saving time year-round. This year’s effort called for staying on standard time throughout the year.
Concern about being out of sync in time recognition with nearby states is covered in multiple pieces of legislation in statehouses around the country.
Bills to adopt yearlong daylight saving time as long as multiple adjacent states take the same action are in the following statehouses: Maryland and Missouri.
Legislation in Connecticut, New York, Tennessee and Vermont would do away with daylight saving time once multiple neighboring states do the same.
A New Mexico bill to stay on daylight year-round includes a requirement that the state of Texas also make the switch. The rule could only take effect if the county of El Paso is included, or if El Paso County enacts a county ordinance exempting itself from reverting to standard time.
Input from voters
Legislation in multiple states would leave it up to voters which way to go on the issue.
An Oklahoma bill would ask voters to decide whether to switch to year-round standard time.
Multiple Texas bills would ask voters for their preference on time recognition. Two more bills in the Lone Star State call for amending the state constitution. The first bill pursues observation of daylight saving time year-round while the other pursues doing away with daylight saving time.
Renewed bipartisan effort calls for federal action
One year removed from gaining unanimous support in the U.S. Senate, a renewed effort calls for doing away with twice-annual time changes.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is again behind the Sunshine Protection Act to make daylight saving time permanent throughout the nation. The pursuit has bipartisan support with 11 co-sponsors.
The 2022 version died in the House after lawmakers raised multiple concerns about the effect the pursuit would have on tourism and large farming communities. Others said additional research is needed or that there are more important issues to address.
In previous Congressional testimony, lawmakers were told that nearly three-quarters of all Americans want to do away with time changes. The large majority of Americans wanting to keep clocks the same prefer staying on daylight saving time.
“This ritual of changing time twice a year is stupid,” Rubio said in a news release. “Locking the clock has overwhelming bipartisan and popular support. This Congress, I hope that we can finally get this done.”
Rubio’s office says there are multiple potential effects of making daylight saving time permanent. The leading effect listed is a reduction in vehicle crashes and vehicle incidents involving pedestrians.
Additionally, the change is touted to reduce the number of vehicle collisions with wildlife by 8 to 11% by “shifting normal traffic patterns to an hour off from nocturnal wildlife’s behavior.” LL