- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2018

For those dazed and confused by changing their clocks twice a year, some elected officials have proposed a solution: make daylight saving time permanent.

Economists have bandied the idea over the years but in recent weeks it has gotten genuine momentum in both state capitals and Washington D.C.

“I’d be extremely happy to not go home in the dark,” said Rusty Glover, a Republican state senator from Mobile, Alabama. “And I think we’d all see a little more productivity, too.”

Mr. Glover sponsored a resolution this month in the Alabama legislature to keep the state on the same time all year. It breezed through both chambers and now awaits Republican Gov. Kay Ivey’s signature.

“And it’s very popular, so she’d better sign it since she’s running for re-election,” Mr. Glover quipped.

Indeed, the idea’s popularity extends beyond Alabama. Last week in Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that asks Washington to allow the Sunshine State to maximize its sunshine — by moving to daylight saving time permanently.

Florida lawmakers beyond Tallahassee are also involved, as Sen. Marco Rubio has filed two bills in Washington: one asks that Florida’s request be approved, the second calls for the whole nation to stop changing clocks twice a year and stay on daylight saving time.

Mr. Rubio made it all sound simple.

“Reflecting the will of the Sunshine State, I introduced these bills that would approve Florida’s will and, if made nationally, would also ensure Florida is not out of sync with the rest of the nation,” he wrote in an email.

Of course, no one can change the number of minutes the sun shines on a given slice of the planet each day. But the clock can help it seem that way. Ever since the U.S. adopted daylight saving time in March 1918, people have dealt with “springing forward” in spring and “falling back” in fall. Or, as most people understand it, losing or gaining an hour of sleep.

Federal law allows states to remain on standard time year-round, and Arizona — with the exception of the Navajo Nation — spends all 12 months on Mountain Standard Time, which effectively becomes Pacific Daylight Time for the summer months. The closer one gets to the equator the more consistent the hours of sunshine are and the less changing the clocks matters, which is one reason why Hawaii and U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico and Guam leave their clocks alone.

On the other hand, under the terms of the grandiosely named “Uniform Time Act of 1966,” states can only go to daylight saving time year round with Washington’s permission, a quixotic arrangement indeed.

“It does seem like it’s been set up a little bit arbitrarily,” said Canadian economist Lisa Kramer. “It’s sort of a weird historical tic.”

Ms. Kramer, a professor of management at the University of Toronto, said the rest of North America is in a similar situation. In Canada, Saskatchewan is the only province to keep clocks the same year-round, although Alberta, like Alabama and Florida, is seeking to go with permanent daylight saving time.

There’s a movement in New England, too, toward permanent daylight saving time, Ms. Kramer said, although the tight hodgepodge of states there makes it necessary to have most or all of the states make the move at the same time.

“People commute from one state to another and it wouldn’t be easy for business to be jumping from one hour to another as people moved,” she said.

There are sound reasons beyond making everyone more rested for locking in daylight saving time, according to Ms. Kramer and others. Mr. Glover said he sponsored his resolution after talking with realtors and UPS and FedEx people who all favor extended sunshine as better for business.

Daylight saving time has been shown to reduce traffic accident fatalities because pedestrians and cyclists, who are more prominent after work, remain easily seen longer, Ms. Kramer said. In addition to expanded commerce, some studies have shown a modest improvement in productivity, she said.

Conventional wisdom holds government started tinkering with the clocks to help farmers or to save energy. But the former is mostly rural legend and studies have shown the impact on the latter to be minute.

What’s more, the harm of changing clocks are linked to things like our “circadian rhythms,” and “sleep desynchronosis” — fancy terms for “internal clock.” It’s the fact there’s a difference, more than the difference itself that creates issues. Consequently, sticking to either daylight saving time or standard time obviates that problem and it makes sense to choose the longer day-sunlight option.

Mr. Scott, the Florida governor, cited even more economic benefits when he signed the bill.

“During my time in office, Florida has created nearly 1.5 million private-sector jobs,” he said. “A large part of this success is Florida’s booming tourism industry. Last year, a record 116.5 million visitors came to Florida. The Sunshine Protection Act allows Floridians and our visitors the ability to enjoy everything our beautiful state has to offer later in the day.”

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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