Daylight Saving Preoccupation in Florida
The United States Senate in Washington has voted unanimously to flip the entire country into Daylight Saving Time year-round, but they didn’t think it through — at all. Little Marco Rubio, a US Senator from Florida, ran this bill up the flagpole and everyone in the chamber voted YES. Problem is, there was extraordinarily little thinking and no debate, no discussion and no research.
The bill’s name is the Sunshine Protection Act of 2021 (S. 623). Of course, our sun doesn’t need protection. it’s just a ball of fire constantly burning, you know, nuclear infused gases. No, this bill would make Daylight Saving Time (DST) permanent across the entire country starting in 2023. One of the talking points is crime will be reduced by giving Americans “more light at night,” however what evidence do we have that the amount of sunlight affects criminal activity? Nonetheless, Rubio thinks this is a pressing matter and “everybody agrees.” Not so fast.
Let’s start with this. Parts of Texas, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Florida are situated in areas where the time zone line indicates their clocks should differ from the rest of their state. So, a state can elect to have a single time zone even if, scientifically speaking, they should have more than one. In 2018, Florida passed a bill calling for permanent Eastern Daylight Saving Time across the entire state, but federal law first needed to change. This is the main reason Rubio’s brought his bill to the US Senate. Marco knew his state was up for the plan and on the surface it appeared to be a no-lose situation for him politically.
Now the House of Representatives will have their say in this matter and I’m thinking they will debate it and then throw it away. Why? A headline in the New York Times says it all, A Groggy Senate Approves Making Daylight Saving Time Permanent. The story points out there has been, “…longstanding and vibrant disagreements over how to set the nation’s clocks.” Some legislators may later say, well, “it seemed like a great idea when I voted for it.”
You see, we’ve tried this before. It happened in 1974, and once people experienced the true difference, they asked for it to be changed back. More recently, Russia tried it but ended the policy when public support plummeted. Even Putin wouldn’t vote for it.
It’s clear that the time debate is not partisan. Democrat Senator Patty Murray from Washington is a leading proponent of doing away with the time changes, and her full-throated endorsement blames the biannual clock shifting for disrupting children’s sleep cycles. We all hate changing our clocks, but what is the best time system to make permanent? Under Rubio’s plan, sunrise would occur around 8:25 a.m. about ninety days a year. Our kids and grandchildren would go to school in darkness for a quarter of the year. Is that what we want?
According to the New York Times, “In one 2017 study from Denmark, scientists analyzed a psychiatric database of more than 185,000 people from 1995 to 2012. They found that the fall transition to standard time was associated with an 11 percent increase in depressive episodes, an effect that took 10 weeks to dissipate. The spring switch, by contrast, had no similar effect.” Would there truly be fewer highway accidents and less crime with permanent DST, or is all that just wishful thinking?
Florida, North and South Carolina have tons of golf courses and they would benefit from more daylight because it would increase revenue. Did the golf lobby motivate Rubio? Maybe, but it could also be a way for this doesn’t-do-much Florida senator to get on the radar.
Maybe it’s all legislative masturbation. Yes, Congress sometimes does things that look good on paper but are truly bad ideas. Science shows we need a certain amount of darkness to make us sleepy. You see, our bodies make this stuff called melatonin and it’s released by the pineal gland to help control our sleep patterns. Melatonin flows when our eyes detect the lower light levels at night, and that serum makes us feel sleepy. Should we put this DST plan in place, parents might discover their kids will want to stay up later, be harder to put to bed and difficult to rouse for school in the morning. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Of course, I have a radical idea. Let’s make Standard Time permanent but push the clock half an hour forward. India does this and that’s why they are thirty minutes off compared to the rest of the world. My plan would provide thirty to forty minutes of additional morning light during the darker months. However, I am fairly sure no one would like my idea.
I don’t think the Sunshine Protection Act will pass the House and, even if it did, I question whether Joe Biden would sign it into law. It’s a nice fifteen minutes of fame for Marco, but his plan will never be universally loved. Perhaps it’s better to disrupt our sleep for a week or so, than to have long early morning darkness. Some might say it doesn’t matter how dark it is with so many people working from home, but what about schoolkids making their way to classes in the dark? If this plan becomes law, what should we do if the majority of Americans hate it? Switch back to what we had before? Why can’t we learn from 1974 and simply move past this? We’re wasting time talking about it.
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