Florida lawmakers are the first in the nation to pass a bill signaling the intent to stay on daylight saving time year-round if allowed by Congress, according to enthusiasts who track America’s annual rituals of springing forward and falling back.
But whether the overwhelmingly popular legislation approved in Tallahassee was a maverick move to ignite a rebellion, or frivolous pandering to voters losing an hour of sleep this weekend is up for debate.
What is clear, is nothing will change in the short term. Most Americans will move their clocks forward one hour at 2 a.m. this Sunday— stealing from the morning to extend sunlighted evenings.
Come the first Sunday in November, they’ll turn their clocks back an hour, settling into the standard time of winter months.
The only power states have now is to opt out of daylight saving time, putting them on standard time permanently, such as what is practiced by Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
But while some states have tinkered with resolutions and proclamations denouncing the forced time manipulations, Florida may actually start a movement, said Scott Yates, an entrepreneur who runs a blog dedicated to preserving daylight saving time year round.
“I know it’s not very satisfying to say a bill passed but nothing is going to happen tomorrow,” Yates said. “Change is hard and this is complicated. It took us 100 years to get here, it’s not going to get fixed overnight.”
It is unlikely Congress would take up any proposal to allow Florida alone to make daylight saving time permanent, Yates said. But if enough states pass legislation similar to Florida’s, it may gain momentum.
“If that happens it would be a no-brainer to say this is what the states are asking for so let’s give them the option,” Yates said.
The bill that is headed to Gov. Rick Scott, which he can sign, allow to become law without his signature, or veto, is called the Sunshine State Protection Act. It says if Congress amends U.S. code to allow states to observe year-round daylight saving time it is the “intent of the legislature that daylight saving time shall be the year-round standard time of the entire state.”
Similar variations were filed during previous legislative sessions, but went no where.
The bill passed unanimously through three Senate committees and in a 33-2 vote in the full Senate on Tuesday. It passed 103-11 in the House. Two Palm Beach County lawmakers voted against it — Rep. Rick Roth, R-Loxahatchee, and Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach. Neither returned phone calls or emails for comment.
Michael Downing, author of the 2006 book “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time,” said time zone complications are often overlooked when daylight saving time changes are proposed.
Keeping Florida on daylight saving time permanently would put it in sync with Nova Scotia on Atlantic Standard Time instead of New York.
“I think it’s a question of whether the federal government will approve having essentially a 5th continental time zone,” Downing said. “Most of the semi-serious proposals at the federal level have been to collapse time zones to three so there is less confusion.”
Downing also notes that tourism officials may not be so keen on sunrises that don’t happen until 8 a.m. or later in winter if daylight saving time was permanent.
Glenn Jergensen, executive director of Palm Beach County’s Tourist Development Council, said the ramifications of the potential change haven’t been considered yet by the council.
“Personally, I hope we do get it year round. I kind of like having the longer days,” he said.
The first nationwide daylight saving time law was passed in 1918 as an energy-saving 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.”
In reality, farmers disliked daylight saving time because they needed the sun to dry dew from their crops before they could harvest and go to market.
But more daylight after work meant more time to shop, play golf and go to baseball games.
By the early 1960s, states and municipalities were allowed to opt in or out of daylight saving time and decide on their own start and stop dates. That led to widespread confusion, with one infamous example of a bus route from West Virginia to Ohio that included seven time changes.
In 1966, Congress approved the Uniform Time Act, which included a standard requirement on daylight saving time. States were allowed to exempt themselves from the requirement as long as the entire state did so.
“Florida’s decision is another step in a long hard journey, but it’s a really important step,” Yates said. “When I write the timeline of how things changed four years from now, or whenever, this will be an important milestone.”