Most Americans switched their clocks forward last month in observation of daylight saving time, but the debate over biannual time changes ticks on at the California state Capitol.
Assembly member Steven Choi’s AB2868 would add California to the list of states waiting to switch to permanent daylight saving time if the federal government gives the go-ahead.
California voters approved a ballot measure in 2018 that allows the Legislature to petition the federal government to move to permanent standard time or, if allowed by Congress, permanent daylight saving time. State lawmakers have been unable to pass legislation with the required two-thirds vote since. Choi’s bill is the latest attempt.
Choi (R—Irvine) initially told CapRadio he wanted to move California to permanent standard time, citing advocacy from sleep physicians that a twice-yearly clock change is detrimental to human health.
But when the U.S. Senate approved a measure in March that would allow states to establish permanent daylight time, Choi noticed a shift in the political winds of time changes.
“I personally prefer standard time as a permanent time,” the Orange County Republican said in an interview. But he acknowledged pursuing it would be “pushing against the grain” as other states and the federal government consider expanding daylight saving time.
Choi did amend his bill to remove a provision that voters would need to approve a permanent time switch. Now it would only require action from Congress.
“My underlying goal of this bill is to establish one time as the permanent time,” he said. “We are moving forward in line with the national movement.”
Seventeen other states have requested to move to year-round daylight saving time, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but it’s currently prohibited under federal law. Arizona and Hawaii are on year-round standard time, which Congress does allow.
The Senate’s Daylight Protection Act still requires approval from the U.S. House and President Joe Biden’s signature to become law.
Choi’s bill could also face hurdles within the Legislature. It passed two committee hearings this week but received pushback from two lawmakers in the Assembly Energy and Public Utilities Committee.
“It seems to me that the natural cycle of things is not daylight saving time,” said Assembly member Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), one of two lawmakers to vote against the bill in that hearing.
Medical experts prefer year-round standard time
Two groups of sleep specialists – the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the California Sleep Society – oppose switching to year-round daylight saving time.
“Biologically, permanent standard time is best for us, our children, and the community,” Dr. Anoop Karippot, a board certified sleep specialist and chair of the Department of Psychology at Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego, wrote in an email to CapRadio. “We wake up to the sunlight and sleep when night sets in. We should respect nature.”
Supporters of a permanent switch to daylight saving time argue an extra hour of evening sun would cut energy consumption and give people an extra hour to shop and dine, thereby stimulating the economy.
Jay Pea, founder of the nonprofit Save Standard Time, argues permanent daylight saving time would increase energy use.
“When you wake people up in the morning, they turn on their heat because it’s cold,” he told an Assembly committee this week.
He pointed out that if daylight saving time were permanent, midwinter sunrises would not arrive until after 8 a.m. in Northern California, meaning most workers and students could be commuting in the dark.
“This was tried before in the 1970s [and] it was hugely unpopular,” Pea said. “Permanent standard time is the quickest and federally pre-approved way to end clock changes.”
AB2868 is currently before the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which will determine whether it will go before the entire chamber for debate.
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