• Tuesday, September 18, 2018
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New York Times

Florida wants permanent Daylight Saving Time, but it’s not so simple

  • NEW YORK TIMES

    A local resident watches the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean after a swim on Miami Beach, Fla., in 2017.

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Few traditions are more maligned than the semiannual switch between standard time and daylight saving time.

On Sunday, we will moan about the lost hour of sleep when we spring forward. In November, we will rend our garments about the months of early darkness to come when we fall back. In March and November alike, we lament the disruption of our circadian rhythms.

Often, these complaints take the form of calls to eliminate daylight saving time altogether. But Florida wants to move in the opposite direction: permanent daylight saving time.

The Florida Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act on Tuesday, three weeks after the state’s House of Representatives, and sent it to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature or veto. (Asked on Wednesday whether Scott would sign it, and why or why not, his press secretary, Lauren Schenone, said only, “The governor will review the bill.”) The margins of victory in both chambers were overwhelming — 33 to 2 in the Senate and 103 to 11 in the House — and the measure has considerable public support.

The problem? Florida doesn’t have the authority to adopt daylight saving time year-round.

The federal government controls the nation’s time zones, as well as the start and end dates of daylight saving time. States can choose to exempt themselves from daylight saving time — Arizona and Hawaii do — but nothing in federal law allows them to exempt themselves from standard time.

And so the legislation, HB 1013, is written conditionally. “Daylight saving time shall be the year-round standard time of the entire state and all of its political subdivisions,” it says — if “the United States Congress amends 15 U.S.C. s. 260a to authorize states to observe daylight saving time year-round.”

In other words: Even if the governor signs the bill, nothing will happen now. Congress, rived over tariffs and gun control and immigration, would have to act on clocks — or the Transportation Department would have to issue a new regulation, an option the Florida legislation does not mention.

Given that hurdle, it is perhaps not surprising that while other states have discussed making daylight saving time the permanent law of their lands, none have managed to do it.

In recent years, several states in New England — Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island — have created commissions or introduced proposals to that end. Staying on daylight saving time could have particular benefits in New England, which, as the easternmost region of a sprawling time zone, endures very early winter sunsets. In parts of Maine, for example, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the sun sets before 4 p.m. — more than an hour earlier than it does in Detroit, at the other end of the Eastern time zone.

This can mean more electricity use and more symptoms of seasonal affective disorder — not to mention less after-work shopping, which takes an economic toll.

But changing time zones could have an economic cost, too, especially in a region like the Northeast, where millions of people commute across state lines. No one wants their office to be an hour ahead of their home. Cognizant of that, most of the New England states contemplating a change made it contingent on their neighbors’ doing the same.

That is less of a problem in Florida, where a vast majority of residents work within the state.

The sponsors of the Florida legislation — state Sen. Greg Steube and state Reps. Heather Fitzenhagen and Jeanette Nuñez, all Republicans — did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday afternoon. But in interviews with local newspapers Tuesday, they said they believed year-round daylight saving time would improve the economy, public safety and mental health.

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