By Luke Sower.
On March 15, the U.S. Senate passed by unanimous consent the Sunshine Protection Act. This bill—if it passes the House and receives the signature of President Biden—would make Daylight Savings Time (DST) permanent across the United States.
History of Daylight Savings Time
Despite the story told to many American schoolchildren, modern Daylight Savings Time was almost certainly not an invention of Benjamin Franklin. Rather, the modern iteration of the practice grew out of Europe, when Germany adopted Daylight Savings Time in 1916 to conserve fuel during World War I. The rest of Europe followed suit, and the United States adopted the Standard Time Act in 1918. This act confirmed the existing standard time zone system and implemented Daylight Savings Time. After the war, Congress abolished Daylight Savings Time, and the practice became a local option, used inconsistently across the country.
After a push for national time consistency by the transportation industry, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966, which standardized Daylight Savings Time across the country. However, the act allows states to exempt themselves from the practice. Today, there are a handful of U.S. territories that do not observe DST, in addition to two states: Hawaii and Arizona (excluding the Navajo Nation).
Arizona’s reasoning for shunning Daylight Savings Time is tied intimately to the unique climate of the Copper State. Due to Arizona’s extreme heat, its residents generally don’t want an extra hour of sunlight during the summer months, which is the precise rationale for Daylight Savings Time. If Arizona were to observe Daylight Savings Time, the sun would stay out until around 9:00 p.m. for much of the summer.
Despite Arizona’s choice to reject Daylight Savings Time, the biannual time change still affects the lives of many Arizonans. Whether it’s business meetings with colleagues across the country, calls with out-of-state family, or the national broadcast schedule of the Phoenix Suns, Arizona feels the ripples of the national time change.
The Sunshine Protection Act
Two days after the resumption of Daylight Savings Time on March 13, 2022, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced the Sunshine Protection Act, which was swiftly passed by unanimous consent. The bill would make Daylight Savings Time permanent across the country, while allowing Arizona and other non-DST states and territories to remain in standard time. This structure would effectively make Arizona a permanent member of the Pacific Time Zone, aligning the state with California and Nevada, while its neighboring states of New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado—as well as the Navajo Nation—would remain in Mountain Time.
Whether it is abolishing Daylight Savings Time or making it permanent, getting rid of the biannual switch back and forth is a generally popular idea amongst Americans. Humans are often creatures of routine, and changing clocks can be a physically disruptive practice. While a single-hour shift may seem insignificant, it can be especially troublesome for the sleep patterns of older people and small children. More generally, the time change can affect our eating habits as well as our mental functioning.
In addition to the benefits of abolishing time change, there may also be specific benefits of making Daylight Savings Time permanent through the whole year. Proponents of the Sunshine Protection Act have suggested that an extra hour of sunlight through the winter could reap numerous benefits. These may include a reduction in seasonal depression, more business for golf courses and other sunshine-dependent enterprises, and even a prevention of the slight uptick in car crashes and heart attacks that typically occur after the time change.
Despite the ease with which the Sunshine Protection Act passed the Senate, the bill does face obstacles. First, there are viable arguments against making Daylight Savings Time permanent. Year-round Daylight Savings Time would see later sunrises, meaning in the winter, cities like Indianapolis and Detroit wouldn’t see sun until after 9:00 a.m. Critics of the Sunshine Protection Act express concerns that these late sunrises would result in more workers and schoolchildren commuting in the dark.
What is clear is that the Sunshine Protection Act is not bringing changes anytime soon. In cooperation with broadcasters and the transportation sector, the implementation of the bill—if passed in its current form—would not occur until November 2023. Additionally, the bill already faces a delay in the House, and President Biden has not yet voiced his position on the proposition.
The Sunshine Protection Act would make Daylight Savings Time permanent across the United States. It is unknown at this time whether the bill will clear its remaining hurdles in Washington, but there is now a clear path forward to bring the rest of the nation in line with Arizona’s practice of using clocks that are stable and unchanging.