An open letter to Kansen Chu, member of the California Assembly.
(I hope you don't mind me calling you Kansen. As you are an engineer, so I'm assuming like other engineers you don't stand on formality, and besides, "Dear Assemblymember" just sounds odd for people who don't hang around Sacramento.)
First: Let me say congratulations. On behalf of those of us who've been laboring on this issue for a while, it's wonderful to see the concerns about Daylight Saving Time get the kind of attention that only comes when an elected official from our most populous state gets involved. It's fantastic.
And by the way, I don't mean that flippantly. This is an issue that a huge swath of the population cares deeply about, and yet nobody seems to talk about it in any meaningful way. You are, and it's just fantastic. (Twelve other states are looking into it so far this year, which is also great.)
Second: Be sure to thank your dentist. I read that he's the one that suggested that you champion this topic.
Third: Your dentist is right on the facts: Switching in and out of DST is not healthy. I've got a list of most of the research about DST here.
Fourth: I hope you don't mind me numbering all the points. My hunch is that as an engineer, you'll appreciate it, just as all your constituents will appreciate the time not jumping around so they can enjoy the moon behind the clouds on a spring evening without losing an hour of sleep.
Fifth: You told a reporter that your interpretation of the federal law is that California could switch to Standard Time, and not go to year-round DST. That is certainly a reasonable interpretation, but it may not be right. Nobody has ever formally asked the Feds to move into permanent DST since the passage of The Uniform Time Act of 1966. All the approved changes have been to make time more uniform across the four time zones.
I understand why you have the interpretation that you do, and you may be right, but it is far from settled. I wrote about this a year before you knew it was even an issue.
The legality seems to be tied up not in which time zone you are in, but if that time zone is uniform with the rest of the country. California essentially being in its own time zone decreases uniformity, so will probably be denied, even if the people vote for it.
Sixth: Even if it wasn't doomed by the Feds, your effort in its current form will be doomed by big business.
In short, all the money in this fight does not want Standard Time year round. The farmers did not want DST after World War II, it was the golf industry, and that industry will certainly fight you on this. Also, the lawn care industry, those who sell patio furniture, the recreation industry, major league and little league baseball — all of these and plenty more have a lot of money tied up in longer summer evenings.
Don't be surprised if some of your old "friends" from the restaurant industry contact you soon and urge you to drop this, as earlier darkness means fewer trips out to eat.
Pretty much the only industry I've been able to find that supports year-round Standard Time is broadcast TV, which wants it dark early so people will go inside and watch television.
Seventh: Do NOT take points five and six as evidence that I'm against you. I'm not. I'm totally in favor of doing anything that shakes things up. If you can get this passed, I'll be cheering more loudly than anyone. I want this, it's just that the path of getting a proposal passed by both houses of the legislature, signed by the governor and then approved in a statewide ballot is a long and difficult path, especially given that you'll have business and the federal government against you.
Eighth: If you call the federal DoT, and if the people there tell you what they've told other state legislators I've talked to, you'll maybe be sad. Or if all the business interests tell you that you need to back off, maybe you'll be sad. Or maybe if people start calling your proposal "depressing," you will be depressed yourself.
Do not lose heart!!! You are fighting the good fight.
Ninth and final point (with its own numbered list): There is a way that you can turn this into a winning issue for you, for California, and for the whole country. Here's how:
- Instead of a bill, with it's long odds of success, offer instead a resolution. Now, you know better than most that resolutions don't typically do very much, but this one would be different.
- This resolution would simply say that it is the wish of California that it would move to year-round DST, and that you want all other states to join you.
- That resolution would go to the other states, and the Feds.
- If two-thirds of the states pass the same resolution, the Feds could solve this with one ruling of the DoT, no Act of Congress needed because this will make the country more uniform under the current law.
- If you don't like the wording of that resolution, which is a bit hyperbolic, I'll write you a new one that's more toned down, or you can write one yourself.
In short, Kansen, and to paraphrase Casablanca… Welcome to the fight. With you on board, I know our side will win!