In-Depth: Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to empower states to decide how daylight saving time will be observed. When he introduced this bill in the 115th Congress in July 2018, Rep. Bishop said:
“For any student of federalism, this is a no-brainer. The range of industry and lifestyle is so varied across our country, it only makes sense for states to have the ability to set their watches the way they best see fit. The Daylight Act simply allows states the freedom to pursue one of these three options. This bill will not force any action nor compel a state to take any action. Quite simply, this gives people the flexibility to do what they want. We are reinforcing the states’ power to govern by loosening the grip held by the federal government.”
In March 2019, the Utah state legislature passed House Joint Resolution 15, expressing its support for this bill. Rep. Marsha Judkins (R-Provo), notes that there are over 30 states with more than 60 bills this year addressing setting the clocks forward and back and says:
“Some people might think it’s a frivolous thing, but it really does have impacts—some very detrimental impacts to change our clocks. I am not going to argue whether we should go to standard time or daylight saving time year round, but I’m just going to say that changing our clock has real impacts to our health, to our psychological health and to our society, to our productivity.”
Judkins also points out that there’s no scientific data to support changing clocks twice a year:
“There are pros and cons to both standard time and daylight saving time, staying on those year round, but there’s no scientific data to support changing our clocks twice a year that it has any benefit to us whatsoever.”
The day after Daylight Saving time in 2019, President Trump tweeted his support for permanent daylight saving time, tweeting, “Making Daylight Saving Time permanent is O.K. with me!”
Brian Anderson, who testified against Utah House Joint Resolution 15 as an advocate for changing the clocks twice a year, contended that it’s not hard or time-consuming to make the adjustment, and most people get a different amount of sleep night to night, anyway:
“Nobody complains about getting the hour of sleep in the fall, but when you lose it in the spring, people think that’s dangerous or bad. I’d be hard-pressed to point to anybody that gets the same hours of sleep every night.”
Michael Downing, a lecturer at Tufts University and author of the book “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time,” notes that golf and business interests are the biggest proponents of daylight saving time. He says:
“In fact, school children and their advocates have always opposed daylight saving because by moving the clocks forward we get less morning sunlight and children are out on dark streets. The same goes for the farmers. I always thought we did it for the farmers and that I was assisting American agriculture in some way every spring. It turns out, the farmers has always hated daylight saving. [Golf is] the most important reason we're still doing and expanding the period of daylight saving time. Since 1915, the principal supporter of daylight saving in the United States has been the Chamber of Commerce on behalf of small business and retailers. The Chamber understood that if you give workers more sunlight at the end of the day they'll stop and shop on their way home. It's not just golf—the barbecue industry loves daylight savings, so do the home good stores because people tend to go out of their houses, see that their roofs need replacing and buy more shingles. It's a really important part of niche marketing for the retail industry."
Downing concludes that daylight saving works as a practice, but it has a downside of increased gas consumption:
“Americans really do leave their houses when there's more sunlight after work. "But here's the problem: We're told we're saving energy, but when Americans go outside and go to the park and go to the mall, we don't walk—we get in our cars and drive. So for the past 100 years, the dirty secret is daylight saving increases gasoline consumption."
Downing’s conclusions about who benefits from daylight saving time bear out when looking at who opposes ending the practice: businesses based on spending time outdoors, such as the golf and barbecue industries, consistently oppose the idea, citing increased profits during the extended periods of daylight. In a 2017 hearing in Nebraska, concern for the golf industry was even stressed as a reason for the state not to opt out of daylight saving time.
One common concern cited in debates over ending or otherwise altering daylight saving time practices is that it could make zoning “exceedingly complicated,” so “the changes [could] sandwich some states between time zone boundaries and state clusters that are defying the bi-annual clock shifts. And for some parts of the year, adjacent time zones could even be two hours apart, rather than the regular one hour difference. Someone living just over a time boundary could conceivably leave work at 6 p.m., drive for 15 minutes, and arrive home at 8:15 p.m.”
This bill has two bipartisan cosponsors, including two Democrats and two Republicans, in the 116th Congress. In the 115th Congress, it didn’t have any cosponsors and didn’t receive a committee vote.
Of Note: Daylight saving time in the U.S. began in 1918 as an attempt to save energy during WWI, following Germany’s earlier shift in 1916. The idea was to maximize sunlight hours during the longer days of the year by taking an hour of morning sun, when many are sleeping, and adding it to the end of the day. Year-round daylight saving time was then implemented during WWII, initially leading to it being called “War Time.”
When the U.S. wasn’t at war, the states did what they wanted with daylight saving, choosing whether and when to change the clocks. However, the patchwork of time zones caused problems, as TV stations, transportation agencies, and other nationwide industries struggled to keep pace with shifting clocks.
To deal with this problem, the Uniform Time Act of 1966 was passed to impose a uniformity of time observance across the U.S., including setting the beginning and end of daylight saving time. Though later amendments have shifted the exact start and stop dates, this act continues to regulate the time changes today.
Rep. Bishop’s office notes that “dozens” of state legislatures have introduced or passed legislation to change or study the current time system.
Some of the impacts of daylight saving time, and the paired “falling back” of clocks in the fall, include higher risk of heart attacks, fatal car crashes, harsher judicial sentences, and more epileptic seizures after time shifts. Proponents of ending daylight saving time also argue that ending the practice would reduce energy use and aid agriculture.
However, University of California professor Severin Borenstein disagrees with those who believe ending daylight saving time would be beneficial, blogging that “permanent [daylight saving time] would likely lead to more pedestrian accidents on winter mornings, as more adults and children venture out in darkness, with the sun rising as late as 8:21 AM.”
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / voloshin311)