early and often

Permanent Daylight Saving Time Bill Just Made Clock Change More Annoying

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For my entire life, changing the clocks twice a year felt infuriating yet inevitable. As a child, I would ask my parents why we had to “spring forward, fall back” each year. They’d stare off into the distance for a beat, mumble something about farmers, and we’d all move on with our lives, groggy but resigned to our fate.

Then last year, a bold group of lawmakers blew up everything I knew about time. They informed the public that the mandatory biannual hour shift was only around 100 years old, and that we had the power to stop it. The Sunshine Protection Act, which would make daylight saving time permanent, was unanimously approved by the Senate in March 2022. People were shocked and elated. If they could just get the bill through the House, then convince President Biden to sign it, March 12, 2023, would be the last “spring forward.”

Well, that’s Sunday, and there’s no sign that the same old temporal malarkey will come to an end anytime soon. The bill expired at the end of the last Congress without ever getting a vote in the House. Senator Marco Rubio reintroduced the Sunshine Protection Act last week, but it has little chance of passing.

Sadly, last year’s failed sneak attack on clock-switching may have only galvanized the opposition. As the Washington Post reported, it led to more spending on lobbyists by sleep-medicine doctors (a.k.a. Big Sleep) and put resistant lawmakers on notice:

… after senators used a legislative maneuver last year to pass their bill with no debate or committee review — shocking many of their colleagues and the White House — wary congressional staff say they’re on alert to block such an effort this year.

Meanwhile, a review of daylight saving time policies by the Department of Transportation, which implements federal time zone rules, is not expected to be completed until year’s end; some undecided lawmakers said they planned to wait for that before making a decision on the Sunshine Protection Act.

This year, the Sunshine Protection Act won’t dodge regular procedure, and the bill’s prospects of even making it out of committee seem dim. Per the Post:

The political logjam might be best encapsulated by Washington state, whose representatives control the two committees that oversee daylight saving time policy: Sen. Maria Cantwell (D), who leads the Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R), who leads the House Energy and Commerce Committee. While the Washington state legislature and governor have pushed for permanent daylight saving time, both Cantwell and McMorris Rodgers have declined to take a position, and their staffs were similarly noncommittal about whether the committees would bring the bill up for review.

The fundamental problem is that while none of us like changing the clocks twice a year, we can’t agree on how to stop. A 2022 Monmouth University poll found 61 percent of respondents want to stop switching, while only 35 percent want to keep things the way they are. But those who want to end the madness are divided: 44 percent said they want permanent daylight saving time and 13 percent want permanent standard time.

The Senate’s permanent daylight saving time proponents — including Senator Edward Markey, who’s been pushing legislation on the issue since the ’80s — say they’re finally making progress; they just need a little help from Americans. The Post reports:

Now, Rubio, Markey and other lawmakers say they’re counting on Americans who learned about the debate for the first time last year, or who mistakenly believe Congress ended the time change and are set to wake up tired and frustrated next week, to lean on their representatives.

“This ritual of changing time twice a year is stupid,” Rubio said in a statement. “This Congress, I hope that we can finally get this done.”

I agree with Senator Rubio on this issue (and only this issue): This is all stupid. But I’ve already lost enough precious time to clock changes. I can’t dive into the science on whether permanent daylight saving time or permanent standard time would benefit more Americans, and then lobby my representatives on the issue; I just want it to stop. And if all these lawmakers have done is raise people’s hopes and guarantee that we’ll have this irritating but fruitless debate twice a year, I’m not sure that we’ve actually made any progress at all.

I truly appreciate the efforts of Rubio, Markey, and their fellow crusaders for temporal sanity. But please just wake me when the Sunshine Protection Act actually has a chance of passing — which will be difficult, as I still have keep switching my damn clocks twice a year.

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Daylight Saving Time Bill Made Clock Change More Annoying