In a rare show of bipartisan cooperation the Senate voted Tuesday to make daylight saving time permanent – something that’s been tried in the U.S. before … and didn’t go well.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act, which would ensure that we spring forward one last time in March, 2024, never to “fall back” again (states with areas exempt from daylight saving time may choose standard time). The bill received unanimous support and now needs approval in the House and a signature from President Biden to become law.
Politicians took victory laps, even breaking out exclamation marks and all-caps messages on Twitter for the occasion, which was also celebrated in several op-eds.
“Changing the clock twice a year is outdated and unnecessary,” Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida said after the Senate vote.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Americans want more sunshine and less depression — people in this country, all the way from Seattle to Miami, want the Sunshine Protection Act,” Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray added.
Others who remember the lessons of the 1970s, however, may not be quite as excited.
Daylight saving time in 1974
In a move to combat a national energy crisis in the United States, then-President Richard Nixon signed an emergency daylight saving time bill into law in late 1973 in an attempt to cut demand by extending daylight hours.
Public opinion of year-round daylight saving time was high leading up to the bill’s passage, The New York Times reported. The nearly 80% approval rate in December, 1973 would fall sharply in the months after, however.
Parents became worried about traffic accidents and the safety of their children, who were forced to go to school under winter darkness. By February, approval was at just 42 percent, according to the Times.
In October of 1974 President Gerald Ford signed a bill returning the nation to standard time for four months of the year.
Nixon wasn’t the only president to try out daylight saving time, however. During World War I President Woodrow Wilson, following the lead of German leader Kaiser Wilhelm, instituted the time change. The bill was widely hated by farmers and Congress ultimately scuttled it after the war, over Wilson’s veto.
President Roosevelt also instituted daylight saving time during World War II, which he called “war time,” which was repealed in 1945 after several states and cities reinstituted standard time on their own.
Will daylight saving time become permanent?
The idea of daylight saving time, so appealing during after-work activities on the golf course or meeting up with friends during the summer, has received broad support over the years. So is the nation ready to make this “permanent” change once again?
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who sponsored the Sunshine Protection Act, referenced “strong science” he says shows that time changes can lead to heart attacks, car accidents and pedestrian accidents, according to The Hill.
Proponents of the measure say the added evening daylight will also lead to a reduction in crime, a potential reduction in energy usage and diminished health risks associated with the time change.
Critics of the bill, however, say year-round daylight saving time will play havoc with people’s circadian rhythms.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) issued a statement applauding the push for a year-round time, but warned that Rubio chose the wrong one.
The AASM added that “current evidence best supports the adoption of year-round standard time, which aligns best with human circadian biology and provides distinct benefits for public health and safety.”
Horacio del Iglesia, a professor of biology at the University of Washington, told The Seattle Times that year-round daylight saving time “would be like Monday morning every day for the rest of your life.”
AASM went on to chide the Senate for allowing “neither a robust discussion nor a debate” before passing the bill, and called on the House to “take more time to assess the potential ramifications of establishing permanent daylight saving time before making such an important decision that will affect all Americans.”
Where the House and President Joe Biden fall on Rubio’s bill is not yet clear.
On Thursday, press secretary Jen Psaki would only say that she didn’t “have a specific position from the administration at this point in time.”