Daylight-saving clock shifting continues in NC despite legislative effort
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include information on the U.S. Senate’s vote on Tuesday March 14, 2022 to make Daylight Savings Time permanent.
There aren’t many things that bring people from all sides together politically these days. But ending the practice of putting our clocks forward in the spring then backward in the fall is one that enjoys wide, bipartisan agreement.
One year ago, state House Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, filed H.B. 307, N.C. Time Zone/Observe DST All Year, to address this universal cause of annoyance and frustration once and for all. Rather than getting rid of Daylight Savings Time and accepting darker evenings and lighter mornings, the bill aimed to make Daylight Savings permanent, allowing more light for evening activities, such as taking the kids to the park, while also accepting that those kids might stand in the dark at the bus stops in the morning.
H.B. 307 sailed through committees and on to the floor, where it passed 100-16, with majorities in both parties supporting the measure.
Unlike two years earlier, when Saine filed the same bill, this time there was a Senate companion bill, too. S.B. 39, with the same title and language as H.B. 307, was filed by state Sen. Vickey Sawyer, R-Iredell, and received backing from prominent co-sponsors, such as Deputy Pro Tem Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, and Majority Whip Sen. Jim Perry, R-Lenoir.
Despite this, the effort ended the same way it had in 2019 after both bills ended up in the Senate Rules and Operations Committee, where bills are often sent to fizzle out. Carolina Journal reached out to Senate Leader Phil Berger’s office for comment on why his chamber has failed to advance the legislation when it passes the House, but did not receive comment at the time of publication.
Part of the opposition to the effort are from those who believe that this should be set at the federal level. On Tuesday, March 14, the U.S. Senate voted in favor of making DST permanent, meaning that Americans would no longer have to set clocks back in the fall. The measure now goes to the U.S. House for consideration and, if passed, would go to President Biden for signature. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who pointed to research on increased heart attacks and pedestrian accidents after the time change.
“The benefits of Daylight Saving Time has been accounted for in the research: Reduced crime as there is light later in the day, decrease in seasonal depression that many feel during standard time and the practical one,” he said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
Part of the problem across the country with eliminating the current leap-forward-jump-back model is a lack of agreement on what to replace it with. In November 2021, an Associated Press-NORC poll showed that 75% of Americans wanted to do away with the current model, and 25% wanted to keep it. But the 75% were split into 32%, who agreed with Saine and Sawyer that DST should be made permanent, while 43% instead wanted to make Standard Time permanent.
Another issue is that, at least for the option of making DST permanent, the move would need congressional approval. Both Saine’s and Sawyer’s bills acknowledge this, saying, “If authorized by Congress, the State and its political subdivisions shall observe Daylight Saving Time, as provided in 15 U.S.C. § 260a, at all times throughout the year.”
There have been a number of attempts at the federal level to make this happen, including by Rep. Madison Cawthorn, the 26-year-old Republican freshman who represents North Carolina’s furthest west district in Congress. Cawthorn’s bill, filed in the U.S. House the same week as Saine’s was in the state House, received no cosponsors and no actions were recorded on the legislation, which he called the “SPF Act.”
This congressional approval isn’t required though for eliminating DST altogether and simply making Standard Time permanent, as Hawaii and most of Arizona have already done.
Those disheartened by the gridlock on the issue may be encouraged to hear the U.S. House’s Energy and Commerce Committee held a full hearing on the topic of whether to get rid of the biannual clock shifts.
In committee Chairman Frank Pallone’s memorandum, he says the practice was started to increase productivity during the war effort of World War I, but now many people no longer see the point, adding that “Since 2018, 19 states —Florida, California, Arkansas, Delaware, Maine, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, Idaho, Louisiana, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah, Wyoming, Alabama, Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Montana — have enacted legislation or passed a resolution to provide for year-round DST.”
If Congress passed approval for states to implement these acts, N.C. would immediately be bordered by three states with permanent DST. Virginia, the fourth state bordering N.C., now has legislation pending on the issue.
“While I have yet to decide whether I support a permanent switch to Standard or Daylight Saving Time, it’s time we stop changing our clocks,” Pallone concluded in his prepared statements. “I believe that any justifications for springing forward and falling back are either outdated or are outweighed by the serious health and economic impacts we now know are associated with the time changes.”
Pallone ended by saying he was requesting the Department of Transportation to perform an analysis about the effects of the current practice. This analysis and the hearing on the subject would then lead to a potential path forward, finally, on ending the unpopular custom of twice-a -year clock shifting.