Commentary: Let’s slow down on moving to permanent daylight saving time

While staying light well past 5 p.m. for about four months is nice, the bill benefits the coastal elite and hurts the heartland overall.

Sen. Marco Rubio speaks at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

With stunning alacrity and no debate, the U.S. Senate recently passed a bill by unanimous consent to make daylight saving time permanent by next fall. The legislation is headed to the U.S. House, where no timeline has emerged for further consideration.

“We don’t have to keep doing this stupidity anymore,” Sen. Marco Rubio, chief sponsor of the Sunshine Protection Act, claimed.

Under current law, of course, clocks change twice each year, with daylight saving time beginning in early March and ending roughly eight months later. The Senate bill would end the country’s fall back/spring forward tradition.

While staying light well past 5 p.m. for about four months is nice, the bill benefits the coastal elite and hurts the heartland overall.

Some supporters of the change — mainly in the mid-Atlantic and South — are admittedly self-serving. They are either annoyed over biannual clock-switching, dislike early winter sunsets, or haven’t considered others’ issues.

“My opinion is a purely selfish one,” a woman in Maryland told Alpha News. “This has always been something I’ve wanted, simply because I’m very much not a morning person, and having the sun set before five majorly bums me out.”

We’ve tried this before. Congress passed year-round daylight saving time nearly a half-century ago, so later sunsets would diminish energy consumption during the Arab oil embargo.

Americans in northern environs faced winter sunrises later than 9 a.m. as commuters in Cleveland, Indianapolis, Omaha, Saint Paul, and Seattle suddenly were driving to their 9-5 jobs under black skies.

More than three months of children waiting each morning for a school bus in sub-zero darkness helped convince Congress to end the permanent daylight-time experiment after one year.

The north-south divide in sunlight possibly explains in part why Americans disagree about standard or daylight time.

A 2019 AP poll found that more Americans actually wanted year-round standard time than daylight. Permanent standard time would allow sunrises in many states to occur as early as 4 a.m.

Rubio has a personal aim, and he also pursued this last year.

He lives in South Florida, which enjoys 10-and-a-half hours of daylight, even during the depths of winter. Sunshine State sun being out until nearly 7 p.m. around Christmas would be a tourism boon.

But places like Des Moines, Detroit, Fargo, and Minneapolis only receive about nine hours of daylight in December and much of January.

Despite combining for about 20% of the U.S. population, California and Texas won’t be affected by this change either way, nor will much of the southeast or mid-Atlantic.

And it’s really a heartland issue.

Upper Midwest farmers, who start work earlier than anyone, should have a big say, so we asked one.

“I find it ironic that Benjamin Franklin originally proposed DST, but he was also the one who said, ‘Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,’” a lifelong Nebraskan explained. “DST sort of nullifies the early riser. More parents will drive their kids to school, and fewer kids will walk to school. It’s about after work and school activities in daylight. But do Floridians care about some poor Minnesota first grader waiting for the bus in pitch black?”

He has a point. The current system has long been a fair compromise.

Can U.S. representatives in places like Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, and the Pacific Northwest slow down the bill and reflect, before enacting such monumental changes?