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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Is it time to make DST permanent?

Daylight Saving Time arrives at 2 a.m. local time Sunday morning, meaning we will lose an hour of sleep that won't be regained until fall, maybe.
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Dave LeMote wipes down a post clock at Electric Time Company, Inc. in Medfield, Mass.. Most Americans will set their clocks 60 minutes forward before heading to bed Saturday night, but daylight saving time officially starts Sunday at 2 a.m. local time (0700GMT). (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The twice-yearly exercise to move clocks forward or back an hour to begin or end Daylight Saving Time arrives, in part, this weekend when most of America will “spring forward” to lose an hour of time at 2 a.m. Sunday morning

If a Senator called “the sun king ” gets his way, that practice could end this year if Congress agrees to make a move an hour forward permanent.

As The Washington Post reports:

“Americans want more sunshine in the chilly, winter months, and Congress can deliver that to them,” said Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who got the Sun King nickname after he passed legislation extending daylight saving time in 1985, and again in 2005. Markey is one of the sponsors of a bipartisan bill that would allow states to lock in permanent daylight saving time, enabling them to “spring forward” one final time and never “fall back” again.

The Democrat from Massachusetts acknowledged in an interview that the bill, known as the Sunshine Protection Act and spearheaded by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), faces an uphill battle in Congress this year — but he argues that persistence had changed the nation’s time code before and could do so again.

“My opinion is, honestly, the sun doesn’t have any enemies,” Markey said, adding that moving the clocks forward permanently would enable hundreds of millions of people to enjoy more sunshine later in the day for outdoor activities, shopping and dining.

That prognosis may be on the bright side given Congress’s decades-long fight over daylight saving time — whom it helps or hurts when it should start and whether the nation should be changing its clocks at all. The battle reached a crescendo last year when the Senate surprisingly passed the Sunshine Protection Act in a unanimous vote in March. But the bill died in the House amid questions over whether year-round daylight saving time was actually safe or healthy, and also galvanized new energy around what many had seen as a quixotic issue.

My paternal grandmother described Daylight Savings Time (DST) as “trying to make a blanket longer by cutting 12 inches off of one end and sewing it onto the other”

“This painful bureaucracy means nothing here on the farm,” said my stepfather. “Our cattle want to be fed just before the sun comes up. What the clocks say means nothing to them.”

Changing our watches and clocks used to be a pain in the ass twice each year. Now, technology does it for us on our phones and timepieces where a signal is sent by the atomic time clock in Colorado between 2 and 4 a.m. each day. Computers change their clock when DST arrives and ends each year.

What will change is how America’s time will be viewed by UTC, the Univeral Time Code, the 24-hour clock that the military calls “Zulu” time. Today, in the Eastern Time zone where we live, UTC is five hours ahead. On Sunday, it will move to a four-hour difference.

In Congress, the arrival of DST also brings out those who think moving time forward or backward is just plain wrong.

The Post report continues:

It’s led to more spending on lobbyists, for instance, from so-called Big Sleep, the sleep medicine doctors who warn that too much daylight would disrupt our circadian rhythms, and who seek the restoration of permanent standard time — the idea that we should never “spring forward” at all.

“Since the events in Congress last spring around daylight saving time, we have met with the offices of dozens of legislators to discuss restoring permanent standard time, with most of them being open and interested in the issue,” Melissa Clark of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine wrote in an email.

The twice-yearly time change has long vexed Americans, who generally say in surveys that they want to do away with it, but aren’t unified on how to replace it. Studies have also shown a greater risk of heart attacks, strokes, and traffic accidents in the days immediately after a time change. According to a 2022 Monmouth University poll, 44 percent of respondents wanted permanent daylight saving time, 13 percent wanted permanent standard time — and 35 percent wanted to stick with the system we have.

The twice-yearly time change has long vexed Americans, who generally say in surveys that they want to do away with it, but aren’t unified on how to replace it. Studies have also shown a greater risk of heart attacks, strokes, and traffic accidents in the days immediately after a time change. According to a 2022 Monmouth University poll, 44 percent of respondents wanted permanent daylight saving time, 13 percent wanted permanent standard time — and 35 percent wanted to stick with the system we have.

“It is just each coast that is in favor of this. The core of this great country apparently is not,” Ford said in a 1985 hearing, jousting with New England lawmakers who had wanted to expand daylight saving time from six to eight months per year.

Markey acknowledged there had been “resistance, especially from some of the farm states” in those earlier battles.

“The rural congressmen were just telling me that the cows want to wake up on God’s time — and I would just tell them that the cows actually don’t have any idea what time it is,” he said. “So no matter what time you tell them that the milking will begin will be acceptable.”

Markey’s side eventually won out: Most Americans now live with daylight saving time for 240 days per year — nearly eight months. (Two states, Hawaii and Arizona, have opted out of the semiannual time changes and remain on permanent standard time.) Nineteen states have also approved measures that would allow them to adopt year-round daylight saving time if Congress passed the bill making it permanent nationwide, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“There’s an amazing political movement built around daylight saving time,” Markey said.

Maybe. Maybe not. Congress will continue to debate the issue, taking more time than others consider a waste of, well, time.

“It’s time to act, ” says Markey and those who support making the change this weekend permanent. But, like most bills on the subject, the time to act never comes.


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