In the years I've been paying attention to this issue, I'm fascinated about how it seems there's always one state per year that leads the way in terms of public attention to the ridiculous clock-changing done in the name of Daylight Saving Time.
Last year it was Massachusetts, which deserves great thanks. True, all they did was study the issue, but at least the study got done. Most other bills on the topic just die. This bill calling for a study actually passed and the study got done.
And the study is terrific, because it says that year-round DST would be the best for the people of the Bay State.
Now Massachusetts basically waits for some other New England states to move forward. I'll be doing all I can to help, but maybe the people of New England are just too busy praying that NFL referees keep treating Tom Brady well.
Florida in the Sunshine
This year, the majority of the press and social media attention seems to be going to Florida.
I'm not exactly sure why. I was a reporter a long time ago, so I know it's always a bit random, but figuring out why one state gets all the attention, when other states are taking more substantive action, is a mystery.
For whatever reason, Florida is it. I've read dozens of stories from the state, and the bills both actually passed their first hurdle, which is a lot more than a lot of bills can say.
For the record, the two bills are:
- The "Sunshine Protection Act" has a cool title, but actually does a smaller thing, which is to move the Florida panhandle (now in Central Time) into Eastern Time with the rest of the state.
- FL H1013 does not have a cool name, but this is the bill that actually could move the state into year-round DST.
Both bills do something important that many bills around the country do not: They recognize that the federal government needs to change the rules.
They need to watch out though. A couple of noisy legislators from the Panhandle could easily kill your bill, and there's already some noise being made about that.
DST Nerds-Only Section
Right now the federal law only allows a state to opt out of Daylight Saving Time and stay in Standard Time year-round, which is what Arizona, Hawaii, and our American brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico have done.
A state or territory can't opt for year-round DST.
What a state potentially could do is opt to move one time zone to the east, and then opt to stay in standard time. That's what Massachusetts would do if it follows the recommendations of the study. That's what New Mexico could have done if the bill wasn't killed by one person.
The Florida bills take the more modest step of politely asking Congress to make a change to the law so that a state can opt for year-round DST, and then Florida would make that change.
It's a pretty low risk situation for lawmakers in Florida:
Vote yes, and if Congress takes bipartisan action on a bill that makes sense and is then signed by the President, then something will happen. Put another way, if monkeys fly out of my ass then we can have tea at Buckingham Palace!
End of DST Nerd Section, back to Florida
Why are the bills in Florida getting such attention?
Maybe it's the story.
A citizen lawmaker, in this case Sen. Greg Steube of Sarasota, went to his barber shop and heard a barber talking about how hard the time-change was on his kids, and then on the whole family.
So Steube decided to do something about it!
That's fantastic, the American way, etc. I've written about that before, with an assemblyman in California who got the idea from his dentist or a representative in Connecticut who got the idea at a Thanksgiving dinner.
Of course the problem is that pesky federal law.
I'm also wondering why it is that Florida's getting attention this year and didn't as much a couple of years ago. Rep. Kristin Jacobs carried a bill in 2015, and while it died, I noticed that she's not a co-sponsor of either of the bills this year. Why is that?
Hey, Greg and Kristin, you two should talk! I hope the fact that you are in different parties won't keep you from helping each other!
In fact there have been bills on this topic dating back to at least 2008, so there's a rich history here.
I stayed up all night coming up with an ending for this post. Then it dawned on me.
Sorry about that.
In spite of my pessimistic view of what can and can't get done in Washington these days, I do think the approach proposed in Florida is a good one.
At some point in the future maybe D.C. will be less dysfunctional and we can get the law changed. Until then, the bills in Florida do a couple of important things:
First, they send a message that states should have the option of staying in year-round Daylight Saving Time. That's what the research says would be the best for health, best for business, best for people.
And second, if and when Congress does take action, Florida won't have to wait an extra year after the federal law gets changed to make the switch. It will already be done.