The narrative surrounding the issue of fixing Daylight Saving Time has evolved from being a niche topic, to being a legitimate concern for state and national legislators. That’s great.
As it has evolved, we are now starting to grapple with a question that hadn’t been real before, and now is: If we do stop changing the clocks, where should we stop?
So far all of the research—including really good in-depth studies commissioned by the legislatures in Massachusetts and Washington—and all of the bills that have passed in 20 states and all of the polling have leaned in the direction of permanent DST, the time we have in the summer.
There were two bills that I saw in 2021 that advocated for a state moving into Standard Time, the winter time, permanently. Out of 116 bills filed, that’s not many, and both of them were killed quickly. Nobody seems to like that solution, except in Arizona and Hawaii, which have done that and are happy with it.
But it is a legitimate question, and one that’s hard for legislators to answer in any meaningful way.
They could look to the science, but as I’ve written about at length, the science is mixed at best. There is a vocal group of circadian sleep scientists who insist Standard Time is the way to go, but they ignore the science from other disciplines. Overall health appears to be better under Summertime. Mental health is better. Pedestrian safety is way better. (That’s important because one of the most emotional arguments that anti-reform forces use is that darkness in the morning is less safe for school children than more darkness in the afternoon. That’s just the opposite of the truth.)
So, my reading of the science is that on balance, permanent summertime is better, but I can see that some people could see it differently if they value circadian sleep science as more important than, say, cardiac or mental health.
For legislators, then, they are forced to make a decision. Most of them have heard from constituents that permanent summertime would be the best, so they lean that way. But it’s the kind of thing that forces them to make a decision that is going to make some people unhappy. Normally they are fine doing that if the people they are making unhappy are in the other party, but with this issue there is no partisan breakdown, so that gives them pause.
What they need is more information, and some political cover.
That’s why a proposed solution from Texas is so great. A state representative there, Lyle Larson, has proposed asking voters to weigh in.
Do you want to lock into summertime, or into wintertime?
It’s a simple question, and the answer will be unambiguous.
And while I proposed that we ask such a question in my home state of Colorado, we have not been able to get that done. And Colorado may not be the best to be a leader in this one anyway.
Texas, however, is interesting. First, it is huge. It’s the second most populous state, so that means something.
Texas politics are generally conservative, and leans heavily on evangelical Christians. I take it from people like Wes Cantrell, a youth pastor in an evangelical church in Georgia and a leader in clock sanity, that there’s no religious issue with locking the clock in summertime. (That’s important for me. I have heard a few cantankerous types call Standard Time “God’s Time” and that always cracks me up. I know He made the earth in seven days, but the good book is not at all clear what time zone He did that in. I certainly don’t want to offend anyone’s religion, but so far it seems that religious arguments are being made—ironically—in bad faith.)
So if the vote comes and Texans announce clearly that they have a preference for Summertime, that will mean that the message is similar in conservative Texas and liberal Massachusetts. While there may be a few states where permanent wintertime would be best, in general most states will want to lock into permanent Summertime.
Bottom line: The idea of a vote from the citizens of Texas is a move toward clock sanity, and anyone who is against the idea of a vote is revealing themselves as being anti-reform. If you really believe you have the facts and the science on your side, you can make that case to the voters. If they vote the other way, it doesn’t mean that they are anti-science or anti-religion or anti-anything. They are in favor of clock sanity.
Famed scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson wrote that he favors permanent summertime, and I had to laugh when some of the anti-reform efforts tried to mansplain to him that his view was not inline with the science. Can you imagine the disconnect from reality it would take to tell one of the best-known scientists on the planet that he is anti-science?
There is only one problem with this brilliant plan for clock sanity in 2022: The Texas legislature is not scheduled to meet. It’s one of those states where they meet only every other year, and this is an off year. They could go into special session, but it looks unlikely that this bill would pass in a special session.
Many other states do meet this year, and so this is my call to any and all state legislators: Instead of working on a bill to just signal your intent to go into permanent Daylight Saving Time, why not ask the voters of your state what time they want to lock into if they could. That will actually help move the issue forward more than just about anything else at the state level.
If you would like help with the language, please be in touch and I’ll do all I can to help.