Six things to know about the political debate around daylight saving time
Twice a year, every year, the ritual returns as literal clockwork: the start or end of daylight saving time.
Millions of Americans, filled with grunts or glee, tap at their devices or wind their watch hands, manually changing the time to reflect a change in seasons.
But in recent years, lawmakers have talked as if this timeworn tradition might be on its last legs. A raft of bills on the federal and state levels are taking aim at the biannual time changes — and yet nothing is changing, at least for now.
Here's a look at where things stand.
What's the status of that Senate bill to end time changes?
In March 2022, the Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act. The intent behind the bill was to make daylight saving time permanent starting in spring of 2023.
And at first, it looked as though it might become a reality. The Senate passed the bill through an expedited process and with unanimous consent — legislative rarities in this day and age.
But the bill failed to be taken up in the House. Members cited higher priorities, like a budget deficit and war in Ukraine, but there was also a growing chorus of criticism about the bill's approach (more on this below).
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., reintroduced the bill this March, and it was sent to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, but there's been no notable movement on it since. A companion bill, introduced by Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., is similarly stuck in committee at the House level.
Even if either bill manages to pass both chambers, it'd still need to be signed by President Biden, who hasn't indicated how he leans on the issue.
So for now, the tradition remains intact.
When is the end of daylight saving time 2023?
This season's turnover time is 2 a.m. on Nov. 5, meaning residents of most states will want to move their clocks back an hour when they go to bed this Saturday.
Two states — Hawaii and Arizona — don't observe daylight saving time. The U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Northern Mariana Islands also don't change their clocks.
What's the argument against the Sunshine Protection Act?
When the Sunshine Protection Act was first debated in a House subcommittee, experts said switching to permanent daylight saving time would do everything: save lives, reduce crime, conserve energy and improve health.
And pretty much everyone agrees that ending the time changes is generally a good idea. Our bodies can be very sensitive to disruptions to our circadian rhythms.
But the medical community has taken issue with how the bill proposes to make the change — specifically, that it mandates all states adopt permanent daylight saving time rather than sticking to standard time.
Doctors and scientists argue that standard time is actually better for our health. Our internal clock is better aligned with getting light in the morning, which, in turn, sets us up for better sleep cycles.
The bill's sponsors aren't budging though. Sen. Rubio is still pushing for permanent daylight saving time.
And the biggest argument for this approach may be an economic one. The idea is that having more light in the evenings encourages people to go out and do things — i.e., spend money.
The nation's convenience stores, for example, told a congressional subcommittee that they see an uptick in spending when clocks are set to daylight saving.
Could the states adopt their own time change rules?
With federal legislation stuck in a holding pattern, states could take up the issue, but they're still subject to some federal limitations.
The Uniform Time Act, which was passed in 1966, says that states can enact permanent standard time but not permanent daylight saving time.
At least 550 bills and resolutions have surfaced concerning time changes at the state level in recent years, according to a tally from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). So the same debate that's happening at the federal level is playing out in statehouses across the country.
Which states are trying to end daylight saving time?
Nineteen states have actually passed measures pledging to switch to permanent daylight time if Congress changes the rules to allow for such an action.
Those states are:
- South Carolina
California voters also authorized a resolution in 2018, but lawmakers haven't taken any action on the legislation so we're not counting it here.
As of September 2023, nine states were actively considering legislation that would also end daylight saving, but by switching the state to year-round standard time, according to the NCSL.
Those states are:
- New York
- South Carolina
But these pieces of legislation are all marked 'pending' so residents should still plan to turn back their clocks this year — and check in before the next time daylight saving time starts up again.
When will daylight saving time resume in 2024?
That'll be Sunday, March 10. Mark your calendars.
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