There is a libertarian side of me that finds daylight savings time unsettling: the government literally changing the time of day, under the Orwellian guise of “saving daylight.” Sure, I like seeing the sun in the sky after dinner, but, “savings?” They’re just returning the extra hour that was slipped under our pillows back in October, for no apparent reason other than to drive home from work in the dark. So what’s the deal Big Brother? Well, it turns out that this mandatory biannual ritual could just as easily be converted into permanent daylight at dinner time, if we could just get Congress to focus.
The US Constitution grants Congress the power over states to “fix the standards of weights and measures.” Daylight Savings Time (DST) was first implemented by the federal government during World War I to conserve fuel and power by extending the hours of daylight to the end of the day. Around this time, Congress saw fit to enact the first national statute governing time zones, with the Standard Time Act of 1918. After the war, DST was abolished at the federal level and left up to the individual states to decide if they wished to continue the practice.
Then in 1966 Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, to “promote the adoption and observance of uniform time within the standard time zones” prescribed by the Standard Time Act of 1918. Oddly enough, the federal statute allows a state to exempt itself from turning back the clocks in the spring, but implicitly prohibits the permanent observation of DST. In other words, you can stay dark all year, but you can’t stay light. What a fun bunch we have on Capital Hill.
At the state level, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures www.ncsl.org, “State legislatures continue to grapple with the vexing and multifaceted state policy questions regarding the biannual changing of the clocks.”
The trend nationally favors permanent DST. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that 29 states have introduced legislation favoring year-round daylight savings time. According to the NCSL, at least 15 states have already passed laws implementing permanent DST, which are subject to take effect “if Congress were to allow such a change.”
As recently as 2019, a bill was introduced in Congress known as “The Daylight Act” (H.R. 1601, 116th Congress), which would have permitted states to decide whether and how to make changes to Daylight savings time. Like many other good ideas, this bill expired with the 116th session.
So if Congress can find the wherewithal to give it the nod, states can be permitted to adopt daylight savings permanently. The NCSL reports that 32 states considered laws favoring permanent DST in 2020. With all the handwringing over the political hot buttons of the day, and the polarization that goes with it, perhaps we can bring the left and the right together on the race/class/gender/neutral, non-partisan question of what time the sun should rise and set.
Maybe we can all agree on that.