Does time run out if you change the clock twice a year? US Sunshine Protection Act could be the key
After a surprise unanimous vote in the US Senate last March, it seemed like time had come to an end for the age-old practice of changing the clocks twice a year.
The problem, however, was that some senators were not well aware of the implications of their unanimous vote to make daylight saving time permanent.
That means similar legislation reintroduced last week may not fly through the Senate as easily this time. And it raised questions about whether there could be a bright future for Canadians committed to having daylight all year round.
“Personally, I’m more negative than last year,” said Thomas Gray, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Texas at Dallas. “Last year it passed the Senate, but it definitely passed because people weren’t paying attention.”
US bill stalled, expired, reintroduced
This Saturday, most Canadians and Americans put their clocks ahead one hour as part of Daylight Saving Time, which means darker mornings but more sunlight in the evening. In the fall, clocks are set back one hour and return to standard time.
However, some lawmakers in the US are trying to end the biannual routine and introduce daylight saving time year-round.
The Senate approved the proposal, dubbed the Sunshine Protection Act, through a process known as unanimous approval, meaning it passed by vote only, bypassing the normal debate time and vote count.
But the proposed bill had stalled for months in the House Energy and Trade Committee. It later expired at the end of the last session of Congress.
Last week, one of the bill’s backers and leading crusaders, Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio, reintroduced the bill into the Senate.
“This ritual of changing the time twice a year is stupid,” Rubio said in a statement. “Locking the clock has overwhelming bipartisan and popular support. I hope that we can finally complete this congress.”
The provinces cite the need for consistency with the states
The future of the bill will be closely watched by Canadians trying to make daylight saving time the norm. Some provinces have been promising to abandon daylight savings for years, but have cited the need to match US states for the delays.
“We’re waiting to see what happens in the United States because alignment has a major benefit, especially for key provinces where trade is at stake.”,” said University of British Columbia (UBC) economics professor Werner Antweiler, who has been following the topic.
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British Columbia Premier David Eby said the province’s position on ending the biannual time change and staying “in sync” with states on America’s West Coast has not changed
A law was passed in BC four years ago allowing the province to permanently observe daylight saving time. But then-Prime Minister John Horgan said the change would depend on Washington, Oregon and California doing the same.
In Ontario, Prime Minister Doug Ford has said that a change would require New York State to also abandon the daylight savings time, while Quebec Premier François Legault has said he is open to making daylight saving time permanent.
Advocates of year-round daylight say it would allow children to play outside later, reduce car accidents, seasonal depression and crime.
The medical community supports standard time
Some in the medical community also oppose the twice-yearly daylight saving time change, fearing that jumping forward is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. But they advocate sticking to standard time year-round because they say darker mornings are out of sync with the body’s natural circadian rhythms.
Some states have introduced legislation to end the daylight saving time, with some states proposing only doing so if neighboring states do the same. And as the Washington Post reported, at least 19 states have enacted legislation or passed resolutions in recent years that would allow them to implement daylight hours year-round.
The issue is rare in DC because it’s not confined to just one party — there are Republican and Democratic supporters and opponents.
“It’s kind of a regional issue,” said Gray, the political science professor who worked as a congressional fellow in DC last March and was there during the vote.
He said many senators were shocked when the bill passed the Senate, and some thought they were voting on something “completely harmless”.
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The senators, he said, were asked by the media why they voted the way they did. “And then they say, ‘What have I done now? What have I done?’ “
Senator John Thune, for example, whose job it was to count votes as a minority whip, learned from reporters that the bill had passed, the Washington Post reported at the time.
“Whose bill is that?” asked Thun. “It passed?”
Majority Whip Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) also learned from the media that legislation was passed to make the Spring Forward permanent. “Permanently made what?” he asked.
Gray believes the vote may have inspired opponents of the bill to take action and be less complacent. Now, he says, both sides are at loggerheads over the issue. “Which I think reduces the chance of it eventually succeeding.”
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But Antweiler, UBC’s economics professor, is more optimistic, especially since the House of Representatives is now ruled by Republicans, so the bill introduced by one of their own will be easier to pass.
“The Last House was run by Nancy Pelosi, and she didn’t really have a lot of time to focus on an agenda that wasn’t close to hers,” he said.
“And although [the bill] bipartisan, it basically got stuck in a committee. It was not pushed forward for what appeared to be political considerations.”