Californians are turning their clocks back with the rest of the country this weekend, despite their continued efforts to eliminate the practice.
In 2018, voters approved a ballot measure to make it possible for California to eliminate the yearly change. But ending the clock-switch requires the Legislature to pass a law. The most recent proposal to make daylight saving permanent was held this year and is expected to return in January.
(Want a primer on the difference between daylight saving and standard time? Here’s a good one from National Geographic).
For the past several years, Assemblymember Kansen Chu (D- San Jose) has shouldered the effort to exempt California from the twice-a-year tradition of turning the clock forward or back an hour. The lawmaker says the disruption to sleep schedules is a health issue. Some studies show that car accidents and heart attacks are more common in the days following the switch.
He’s now pushing for year-round daylight saving time, which means the sun rises an hour later and stays up later in the evening. He says this will let children sleep longer before school, which could align well with California’s recent move to start classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m. And he argues it’s good for adults, too.
“By giving more time for those people after work to enjoy the outdoors, I think it is a health benefit,” he said.
The year-round daylight saving measure hit a snag in a Senate energy committee, but Chu plans to bring it back next year. He says the chair of the committee raised concerns about disruptions to trade and tourism between California and Mexico, which Chu says he’s now doing research on.
This is just the latest development in a multi-step process for California.In June 2018, former Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill from Chu that added a daylight saving time proposition to the ballot. That measure won with a 60 percent vote last November, effectively repealing the Daylight Saving Time Act of 1949.
Repealing the act didn’t end the clock-switch, it just opened the field for legislators to put forward a new plan — either setting our clocks permanently on winter time, or instituting daylight saving year-round.
Chu’s new bill would need a two-thirds vote to move on to the governor’s desk.
Even if Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill, any change would require approval from the federal government. Arizona and Hawaii have already ditched the practice, and California isn’t the only one trying to follow suit. Twenty-six states put forward bills to end the clock switch this year according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Congress is currently considering its own daylight saving proposals.
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed, hopefully the people in Washington D.C. will be able to get to those bills earlier rather than later, and next year we won’t have to switch back and forth,” he said.
Most Americans want to ditch the status quo, but they’re torn on how to do it. According to a new poll from the Associated Press, only a third want to keep switching the clocks. Another third want to stay on daylight saving time year-round and 40 percent want permanent standard time.
Daylight saving was initially created as a way to save power during wartime. UC Berkeley economist Severin Borenstein, who’s written about the environmental and business implications of daylight saving, said there’s not much evidence showing the clock-switch saves energy. But he said it might still be better than the alternatives.
“This is a way for everyone to shift their schedule at the same time in a coordinated fashion,” he said. “My concern is that if we didn’t have daylight saving time, we would have summer hours and winter hours … and you could end up with a real patchwork where each entity changes its hours on a different day and by a different amount. And I think that would lead to a lot more cost than the current system.”
Year-round daylight saving would also mean a later sunrise on winter mornings, which could be a pain for farmers who get up early to tend crops. But according to the American Dairy Association, cows really like the idea.