Spring forward. Fall back.
Using the seasons as a guide, Americans have used those expressions to figure out when they should set their clocks back an hour, or forward an hour, to switch between standard time and daylight saving time.
The debate over whether to continue this decades-old tradition has raged probably as long as it’s existed. And there have been numerous attempts to abolish it in the past.
None of those attempts have come from State Rep. Mark Danish, however. The New Tampa Democrat is leading the House push to make daylight saving time permanent in Florida. If successful, that would mean no more springing forward and falling back, and could encourage other states to follow suit.
“We keep calling ourselves the ‘Sunshine State,’ yet we cut ourselves off,” Danish said. “I hate the idea that it gets dark so early throughout the whole winter. We’re losing out on the light, and we could use it later in the day.”
Clocks typically fall back an hour in November, and stay that way until the second week of March. That allows the sun to rise just after 7 a.m., this time of year, instead of just after 8 a.m., during standard time.
The extra sunlight has to go somewhere, however. Right now, the sun is setting around 6 p.m., instead of 7 p.m.
It does mean more light for people on their way to work, and means bus stops aren’t cloaked in darkness for school children. But Danish’s bill — along with a sister bill in the State Senate — would change that.
Daylight saving time dates back to World War I as an effort to conserve fuel, according to some historical publications. It didn’t become formalized in the United States until 1966, which originally started daylight saving time in April, and ended it in October. States were allowed to exempt themselves from daylight savings, but only if the entire state did it. In the last nearly 50 years, only Arizona and Hawaii have opted out.
But those states don’t have the population Florida does, and such a change could have lasting regional impact.
Primarily, Florida would be in virtually its own time zone for half the year. When the rest of the country switches back to standard time, Florida would still be in daylight saving time. That would align the state with Eastern Time in the winter months, and Atlantic Time in the summer months.
Danish suggested the state could market it as “Florida Time.”
“It would be terrific for tourism,” he said. “When you have people coming from the Central Time zone like up in Chicago for vacation, they can get here and wouldn’t even have to change their clocks.”
Florida has tried to pull out of the time change several times in the past, including an effort last year by State Sen. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, who introduced a similar bill in the Senate again this year as a companion to Danish’s bill. Last year’s bill, which would’ve simply exempted Florida from daylight saving time, was withdrawn before a committee ever considered it.
What’s different this time around is that Florida isn’t looking to stay on standard time. Instead, it wants daylight savings to be the state’s new standard time — and that might cause problems.
The Uniform Time Act of 1966, which established daylight saving time for the country, allows states to exempt themselves only if they stay on standard time. The act was modified nearly 40 years later with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which adjusted when in the year clocks would be changed. However, it didn’t remove the requirement of standard time or bust.
Even if the bill could not take full legal effect, if it did pass, it could send a message to other states, possibly leading to a full repeal of the 1966 act.
“There are some federal rules, but it might encourage other states to go along with it,” Danish said. “We are a big state that keeps getting bigger, and when a big state like ours makes a move, other people are definitely going to be looking at it.”
Note: This story was updated to clarify that Florida is in standard time during the winter months, and daylight saving time during the rest of the year. It was further updated to correct which time zones the main part of the state would be in while others are still shifting clocks.
Published Jan. 29, 2014