Florida has many attractions and good government policies. But maybe the rest of the country should be heard before letting a Sunshine State senator set the clocks in all 50 states.
The Sun Protection Act, which passed the Senate last week without debate, would set daylight saving time as the default year-round starting in fall 2023. Under the current law, the clocks change twice a year, with daylight saving time beginning in March and ending in November. The Senate bill would end an 80-year tradition of seasonal clock changes. States could instead stick to standard time, but they would have to stick to it year-round.
You would think that a change affecting so many people would spark debate. But the bill passed unanimously after title sponsor Marco Rubio introduced it and no one stood up to block it. “Boom, it’s a miracle,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the lead Democratic co-sponsor. He is thrilled that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Biden can now decide America’s schedules since Republicans have a minority in the House. Several House Democrats are trying at least this week to slow down the bill.
Proponents of the change point to the inconveniences of the clock change, such as the loss of an hour of sleep each spring and early sunsets throughout the winter. “We don’t need to keep doing this stupidity anymore,” Mr. Rubio says. He called permanent daylight saving time “an idea whose time has come”.
Mr. Rubio is only 50, so maybe he doesn’t know that his so-called new idea is actually an old one that was tried in the 1970s. Congress passed daylight saving time all year in 1974, hoping that later sunsets would reduce power consumption during the oil crisis of that time.
Americans in northern latitudes suddenly experienced winter sunrises as late as 9 a.m. or later in Minneapolis, Detroit or Tacoma. Commuters went to work in the dark. Three months of children waiting every day for the school bus in the dark was enough to convince Congress to end the fixed daylight saving time experiment in 1975.
The north-south division of sunshine hours may explain why Americans disagree on standard time or daylight saving time. A 2019 Associated Press poll found Americans disliked the clock change, but 40% preferred daylight saving time while 31% wanted standard time. Year-round standard time would also mean very early sunrises in many states, before 4:30 a.m.
Mr. Rubio lives in South Florida, which enjoys 10.5 hours of daylight even during the winter solstice. But in Buffalo, which enjoys about nine hours of daylight in December, residents might prefer sunsets at 4:40 p.m. to avoid starting cold winter days under cover of darkness. Even if Wisconsin or New Hampshire stayed on standard time, the change would mean a daily headache for commuters to Illinois and Massachusetts. Farmers who start early should also be heard.
The current split year system amounts to a geographical and political compromise and should not be changed without thought. Ms Pelosi said she supported changing fixed hours throughout the year, but did not decide on a timeline for a vote in the House. How about a debate first?
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Appeared in the March 22, 2022 print edition.