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Every spring, people across the country set their clocks one hour ahead for daylight saving time. And then come fall, we set them back again. It's a habit at this point, but not everyone is on board with it.
Although daylight saving time is customary throughout the U.S., the concept actually originated in Germany. In 1916, German troops turned their clocks forward in the spring as a way to ration fuel during World War I. The idea caught on elsewhere, and two years later it was implemented as a wartime measure in the U.S. Since then, resetting clocks in the spring and fall has become standard in all but two states, with Hawaii and Arizona being the only legislatures who chose not to adopt the practice when it was nationally implemented in 1949.
Despite its prevalence, daylight saving time is a controversial subject, with many detractors arguing that the biannual resetting of the clock is harmful to the health and wellbeing of Americans. Pending federal approval, states technically have the power to ditch the century-old custom, and some are actively trying to do so. Although they’ve yet to succeed, the following states are working toward ridding themselves of daylight saving time for good.
For two years, Florida legislatures have had a bill in the works to end daylight saving time. These efforts have been championed by Senator Marco Rubio, whose Sunshine Protection Act was passed as a bill in 2018 and is still awaiting congressional approval. The reasoning behind the change is to allow more daylight after school and working hours, especially during the winter, when access to fresh air and sunshine is crucial for keeping immune systems healthy. As recently as September 2020, the Sunshine Protection Act was reintroduced on the federal level, although critics of the bill worry how the time difference will affect day-to-day business with other states.
Washington state has legislation in the works that would eliminate the biannual time change for good. The bill, which was met with enormous approval by the state House and Senate, was signed by the governor in 2019. However, it won’t come into effect until it is accepted on the federal level. Many of the bill’s sponsors claim that it would have multiple positive outcomes, with more afternoon light leading to energy savings and increased public safety. If and when the law is finally approved, Washington citizens can expect about eight hours of sunlight on the shortest day of the year, with the sun rising at 8:54 a.m. and setting at 5:20 p.m.
Oregon is another state in the Pacific Northwest that is inching toward the move to permanent, year-round time. Although a bill that would end daylight saving time was signed into law in June 2019, Oregon lawmakers still have some hoops to jump through. In order for the law to be enacted, it must first be approved by the federal government. The law also stipulates that California and Washington must commit to the permanent time change as well. Most lawmakers think it will be beneficial for the regional economy if all three states on the West Coast are in the same time zone.
Luckily for Oregon, California also hopes to stop resetting the clock. These efforts have been led by Assemblyman Kansen Chu, who has been working hard to make the move to a year-round standardized time. The daylight saving issue was first introduced to the public in the 2018 election, when residents voted in favor of abandoning daylight saving time. Soon after, Chu crafted a law that would move California ahead in March, without ever having to fall back. The law initially succeeded in the Assembly, but it hit a few snags in the Senate. The largest concern was that the time change would hinder commuters from Mexico, who cross the border daily to work in Southern California. Although the law was suspended, Chu submitted a resolution in 2020 with the hopes of getting it passed once more.
If Massachusetts gets its way, residents will never have to reset their clocks again. In 2019, Senator John Keenan introduced a bill that would permanently switch Massachusetts to Atlantic Standard Time, which is an hour ahead of the state’s current Eastern Standard Time. Should the bill ever come to pass, the state would “spring forward” in March and never “fall back.” The reasoning behind the change is simple — as Massachusetts is an Atlantic state, the sun there sets much earlier than it does in other parts of the Eastern Time Zone. Moving one hour ahead would put Massachusetts in the same time zone as Nova Scotia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and would allow New Englanders more daylight hours in the afternoon and evening.
In 2019, two separate bills proposed ending daylight saving time in Maine — each with a different strategy. One bill suggested that Maine move an hour ahead to the Atlantic Time Zone, while the other stipulated that the state should remain in Eastern Standard Time, but only if the federal government eliminates daylight saving time nationally. Critics of the first bill say that moving to Atlantic Standard Time would affect commerce with other states and would make life difficult for truckers and commuters who drive daily throughout the region. Supporters believe it is a healthier option, as daylight saving has a lasting negative effect on sleep patterns. In the end, both bills were passed, but Maine will only move forward with the change if Massachusetts and New Hampshire ditch daylight saving time as well.
New Hampshire is a third state in New England attempting to “ditch the switch,” with a 2019 House bill that called for moving permanently to Atlantic Standard Time. Although it was passed, the bill comes with a major catch — New Hampshire is allowed to make the change only if Massachusetts and Maine also commit to ending daylight saving as well. In order for all three states to change time zones, they will need approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Congress also has the ability to approve and enact the change. Until then, New Hampshire residents will continue to reset their clocks in November and March with the rest of the country.