Most concepts moving forward with bipartisan support in Congress are either bad for America or completely innocuous. Some local politician wants to name a post office after his recently deceased Aunt Mable? Yeah, no problem. The Senate will pass it 100-0.
Want to make apple pie the official dessert of America? Nancy Pelosi and Steve Scalise will stand arm-in-arm, sharing bites from an ample slice, while the rest of the House pats each other on the back for taking such a bold stand against Big Meringue.
But one movement that has bipartisan support would truly impact Americans’ lives for the better; it’s called the Sunshine Protection Act of 2019, and is co-sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Patty Murray (D-Wa.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). The bill would shift time zones throughout America one hour annually, essentially making Daylight Saving Time the new standard time.
Rubio says data indicate adding an extra hour of daylight in the evening reduces car crashes and accidents involving pedestrians, reduces robberies by 27 percent, increases physical fitness and reduces energy usage.
The concept is popular throughout the nation with Republicans, who disdain sitting inside an office all day only to walk out to their cars in complete darkness, and with Democrats, who would like an extra hour of daylight after watching courtroom television and before tuning in to Rachel Maddow.
It’s also got the support of President Trump, who tweeted in March that “Making Daylight Saving Time permanent is OK with me!”
In 2018, Louisiana set up a committee to explore the concept, joining a list of states that have either approved it or are considering it. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Nevada, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington have already passed resolutions to make DST permanent, while Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Vermont are considering such measures.
Unfortunately, however, each of the resolutions requires congressional approval before it can take effect. Current federal law allows states to opt out of DST, and Arizona and Hawaii do, but it doesn’t permit states to skip standard time. That means 48 U.S. states push their clocks forward an hour on the second Sunday in March and pull them back an hour the first Sunday in November. That latter change will occur this weekend.
The main hangup with permanent DST seems to come from child-welfare advocates, who are concerned about children having to wait at bus stops in the dark during early morning hours. No politician wants to be the target of wagging fingers after a child is injured or worse while waiting at a dark bus stop.
That’s a fair concern, but the only way to solve it is to shorten the school day. In some cities, latchkey kids are arriving home after dark during standard time. In Boston, for instance, sunset is as early as 4:11 p.m., which means kids who ride buses or do any extracurricular activities are likely reaching their front doors after the sun has breached the western horizon. Is leaving for school in the dark worse than getting home in the dark? And even with the adjustment to standard time, sunrise in Boston is as late as 7:13 a.m., meaning most kids are waiting for the bus in the dark anyway.
So far, the Sunshine Protection Act has languished in committee, but there’s real hope it may eventually see a floor vote. Congress has not historically been averse to DST. In 1986, Congress switched the beginning of so-called “summer time” from the last Sunday in April to the first, and again adjusted it, in 2007, to extend from the second Sunday in March through the first Sunday in November.
So, really, eight months of the year are under DST, while the nation observes standard time for only four.
That’s precisely four months too many.