Daylight saving time: Why are we still changing the clocks?

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct that the bill passed by Oklahoma’s Senate would establish year-round daylight saving time.

(NEXSTAR) — While we’re just starting to enjoy the leaves changing, we’ll soon be going through a less desirable change: the bi-annual changing of our clocks. 

Maybe you won’t manually be changing the clocks in your home, but they will be falling back an hour as daylight saving time comes to an end

As you grimace at the thought of the extra darkness we’ll soon experience when the clocks change, you may be wondering, “Why do we even still observe daylight saving time?” It’s a fairly simple question with a slightly more complex answer. 

That’s not to say efforts haven’t been made to try to end our observance of daylight saving time altogether. 

We’ve had a back-and-forth relationship with daylight saving time since the early 1900s. At first, it was a wartime measure and was repealed in 1919, according to the University of Colorado Boulder. It was reinstated in 1942 during World War II before Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966 to make the bi-annual clocking-changing the norm.

In 1973, we tried observing daylight saving time year-round to combat the national energy crisis. Americans liked it at first, but it quickly became unfavorable as parents began worrying about traffic accidents and the safety of their children, who were now going to school before the sun came up. By the fall of 1974, then-President Gerald Ford had signed a bill to put the U.S. back on standard time for four months.

Since then, state and federal lawmakers have made efforts to stop changing the clocks.

This year alone, lawmakers in nearly 30 states have tried to put an end to daylight saving time according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In most cases, those efforts have failed or stalled. 

As of September 2023, states that have enacted legislation or resolutions within the last year include Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah. Kentucky and Mississippi have approved legislation, while Massachusetts has commissioned studies on the matter. Voters in California authorized a change last year, but no legislative action was taken. 

So far this year, legislation related to daylight saving time has been introduced in 29 states, the NCSL reports. While many are stalled in the state legislature, many failed to pass. In Oklahoma, the Senate passed a bill to establish year-round daylight saving time and referred it to the House, which has taken no action on it. A House bill in Texas faced a similar fate and has been stalled in the Senate since May. 

Regardless of whether the bills have or have not passed, or whether they want permanent daylight saving time or standard time, there isn’t much hope for states locking the clocks without Congress taking federal action. 

Under the Uniform Time Act, there are only two ways the U.S. can ditch daylight saving time changes. Either Congress has to enact a federal law, or a state or local government has to get permission from the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to stay on permanent standard time — which is what the U.S. observes between November and March — not permanent daylight saving time.

There have been multiple bills introduced in Congress this year that would stop the changing of the clocks. 

In March, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., brought forth the Sunshine Protection Act of 2023, which would make daylight saving time permanent, effective in November. While the bill received bipartisan support in the Senate, it was referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and has remained there ever since.

In a statement to Nexstar shared via email Thursday, Rubio said, “This bill has bipartisan support, and I’m hopeful that we can finally get this done.”

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., introduced a bill that would allow states to observe daylight saving time year-round. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-SC, brought forth a similar bill that also called for the Government Accountability Office to provide Congress with the results of a study on implementing daylight saving time year-round. Both were referred to the Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce in March and remain there.

“It’s frustrating that the committee won’t bring it for a hearing or markup because it’s such a bipartisan, widely supported issue. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe, daylight savings affects everyone,” Norman said in a statement shared with Nexstar via email on Thursday.

Rogers didn’t immediately respond to Nexstar’s request for comment. 

Ultimately, without Congressional action, the majority of the U.S. will continue to observe daylight saving time and the twice-a-year tradition of changing the clocks. And with lawmakers working to prevent a government shutdown before the end of September, the future of any of the aforementioned bills seems dim. 

Daylight saving time ends on Nov. 5.

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