The Massachusetts legislature, what they call the “General Court,” is considering a fix to Daylight Saving Time. I couldn't be there on the day they first heard testimony, but I'm planning a trip to the Bay State at some point to talk to legislators about this bill.
In the meantime, here’s the official testimony I’m sending in:
Dear Sen. Keenan, Rep. Gregoire, Sen. Pacheco and members of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight,
History doesn't repeat itself, the saying goes, but it does rhyme.
You are now considering a bill that would put Massachusetts squarely in the lead for the state taking the smartest and best step forward in fixing the twice-yearly madness of changing clocks into and out of Daylight Saving Time.
Of course it would be Massachusetts.
You see, we may never have had Daylight Saving Time if it hadn't been for a famed Massachusetts retailer, Lincoln Filene.
But he figured out that if he said that, or called it Buy More Stuff After Work Time, or Make More Money For Filene's Time, nobody would go for it. So he called it “Daylight Saving” time, and the name stuck.
He also realized that he needed a better reason to switch the clocks, so he and his PR team came up with the stuff about the farmers. That's why everyone thinks DST is for the farmers. It's not, and never has been. In fact, they've always hated it. The only reason we think it was for the farmers is one of the greatest PR con jobs of all time.
His plan didn't actually have time to work, WWI got in the way, and the Germans started “War Time” and the Brits followed suit, and then the U.S.
But the name that Filene came up with is the name we use, still. The leadership on this issue came from Beantown and the Bay State.
It's not the proudest moment for the state, but now you on this committee and eventually the entire great state of Massachusetts can take the lead in fixing the problem.
What, exactly, is the problem?
In short, Daylight Saving Time is a killer. The “Fall Back” change, annoying as it is, isn't actually all that bad. An extra hour of sleep is a good thing.
The “Spring Forward” change, however, is a legitimate public policy health issue.
Heart attacks go up. Strokes. Traffic accidents. Workplace accidents. All go up in those days after the government sneaks into our homes and sets the alarm clocks to go off an hour earlier than our bodies expect it.
A recent study from Germany makes it clear that all these factors combine to kill people at a rate that is no laughing matter. (All the research can be found here.)
Of course, many of you know about this because you voted to have Massachusetts study this issue. The report that came back was comprehensive, clear, and compelling. Anyone who reads it in full comes away with the same impression: this needs to get fixed, and the sooner the better.
The difficulty is the federal law, which right now would only allow you to go into standard time, aligning you with Chicago for about two-thirds of the year.
Luckily, your staff has done the homework, and figured out how to thread the needle of legislation to get done what you want to do. In short, you petition the federal government to move into the Atlantic Time Zone, and then petition to stay in Standard Time year-round.
That's a smart, legal solution, and you have the advantage of having a time zone to the east that doesn't sound bad for Bay Staters. (I'm currently working with legislators in California, and they are having a hard time with the idea of moving out of the Pacific time zone and into the Mountain time zone anchored in my home state of Colorado.)
So in conclusion, thank you very much for your time and attention, and thank you for correcting Massachusetts' ignoble place in DST history, and most of all thank you for doing your part to end the insanity of forcing your constituents to change clocks twice a year with no good reason at all.