Florida lawmakers want permanent daylight saving time

Two Florida lawmakers are hoping to end the biannual frustration of forced time changes in the nation’s decadeslong attempt to extend the sun’s reach.

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Daylight saving time bills filed in the House and Senate would amend the state’s timekeeping so the Sunshine State would not be required to spring forward an hour each March and fall back every November.

Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, who filed SB 858, said the proposed legislation has attracted the most attention of anything he’s filed in his seven years in the Florida Legislature.

“The outpouring of response was pretty much the highest of any piece of legislation I’ve filed,” Steube said. “After we fell back in November, I had a number of people who had issues, especially with young children who have to acclimate to the time changes, and I was trying to respond to their concerns.”

Steube’s bill and HB 1013 currently have different takes on ending the time changes.

The Senate bill would opt Florida out of daylight saving time and keep it on standard time year-round, similar to what Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands do.

House Bill 1013, which is called the “Sunshine Protection Act,” was filed by Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami, and Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers. It would keep daylight saving time year-round if changes at the federal level allow it.

Currently, states can only opt out of daylight saving time, not make it permanent.

But Steube said he plans to amend his bill to match the House proposal when committee meetings start next month.

“There is general confusion on what Daylight Saving Time is compared to standard time,” said Steube, who conducted a poll that found people wanted to do away with daylight saving time.

After an email blast explained the difference between daylight saving time and standard time, Steube said people were overwhelmingly in favor of keeping daylight saving time.

Most of the U.S. is on daylight saving time between the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November. The extension to eight months was approved in The Energy Policy Act of 2005 and went into effect in 2007.

“The whole proposition that we lose or gain an hour is, at best, philosophical: ‘What are we talking about?’ And yet we go on talking about it every year,” said Michael Downing, author of the 2006 book “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time.”

“We have eight months of it now, so, in reality, it has become our standard time,” Downing added.

A growing movement is rising against the forced time changes with proposed bills and a rabble of bloggers bent on dismantling a system they say is unnecessary, unhealthy and built on a propaganda campaign so successful that many still believe farmers are to blame for the biannual clock changes.

Massachusetts and Michigan have broached the idea. And in Florida, the so-called “Sunshine Protection Act” was pushed at least four times during legislative sessions, including in 2016 by Rep. Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek.

Despite the promise of sunlit early evenings to enjoy Florida’s mild wintertime weather, it failed quietly without a single committee vote.

Steube said that’s because it didn’t have a Senate sponsor.

He’s confident with the House and Senate behind it this year, it has a chance of passing.

“If we want to make daylight saving time permanent, I don’t see the federal government having an issue with it,” Steube said.

The first nationwide daylight saving time law was passed in 1918 as an energy conservation measure during World War I.

But it was also supported by Boston-area department store owner Lincoln Filene, who compiled a list of the benefits of daylight saving time, including that “most farm products are better when gathered with dew on.”

“This was news to farmers,” said Downing, who believes the true reason for the 1918 change was that the retail, leisure and sports industries saw benefits to daylight saving time.

Farmers disliked daylight saving time because they needed the sun to dry dew from their crops before they could harvest them and take them to market. But more daylight after work meant more time to shop, play golf and go to baseball games.

“If you talk to the tourism industry, they like it because there’s more time in the evening to go out shopping,” Steube said. “If changing the time comes with all these problems, why keep doing it?”

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