By Danielle Lachance
Daylight Savings Time has long been controversial within the United States. The custom was first instituted in the late nineteenth century and has cycled in and out of popularity among many different countries. The last time that it was popular within the United States was in the 1970s, during the energy crisis. However, the energy crisis gave a reason for Daylight Savings Time, while some argue today that it is no longer necessary.
Among the most recent states to consider reorganizing Daylight Savings Time is Florida, with Florida senators introducing a bill to keep Daylight Savings Time year-round. What makes a difference now is that this bill is specifically focused on COVID-19, extending Daylight Savings Time throughout the pandemic. The question for many Floridians is why the senate currently wants to push forward a time-sensitive bill, especially considering the fact that the length of the COVID-19 pandemic is indeterminate. Right now, there are over 300 bills waiting for Senate action, which means that much competition exists for this bill.
It is important to understand that there is an end date for the extended Daylight Saving Time -- specifically, November 7, 2021. The potential bill has been introduced by senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and would essentially prevent the clocks from falling back on November 1, 2020. Though some Floridians may be relieved to understand that this bill does have an end date in mind, despite the fact that the pandemic does not itself possess one, there remain many questions about why this bill is being introduced at all.
At its most basic, the argument in favor of this potential bill is that it will prevent the disruption that comes with falling back every year. The issue with Daylight Savings Time is that it can often throw people off of their natural rhythm. However temporary, people become more tired and have trouble sleeping. This can lead to issues with concentration, working, and even driving. With there already being roughly 5.5 million car accidents in the United States every year, these politicians are concerned about the fact that there is more of a capacity for such dangers following Daylight Savings Time. Essentially, this bill will allow a single year of continuity for families that normally would be thrown off track by falling back. Marco Rubio describes the extended Daylights Savings Time as a way in which the burden that Americans are enduring due to COVID-19 can be eased.
A major concern with the usual fall back procedure is that Americans are currently, in many cases, both working more from home and potentially homeschooling their children. Changing the clocks now is different than it would be any other year; time management has become a struggle during COVID-19. The clocks need to be maintained in order to keep some degree of order in households. Senators Rubio and Scott have listed other benefits of the extension of Daylight Savings Time, including reduced car crashes and car accidents, economic benefits, reduced childhood obesity and increased physical fitness, benefits to the agricultural economy, reduced energy usage, reduced risk of cardiac issues, stroke, and seasonal depression, and of course the reduced incident of robberies. While many don't understand that there is a theoretical connection between Daylight Savings Time and robberies, in fact the last two weeks of the year, over Christmas and New Year's, experience significantly more break-ins compared to the rest of the year. However, the concept of this bill does not exist without opponents, and there are many that remain uncertain about whether or not extending Daylight Savings Time is beneficial.
Both senators Rubio and Scott have a history with the concept of a Daylight Savings Time extension. Senator Rubio previously introduced the Sunshine Protection Act. This was actually meant to make Daylight Saving Time permanent nationally. The act was meant to reflect Florida's 2018 extension of Daylight Savings Time, but this change cannot be made until the federal statue is changed. Lawmakers point to the fact that in total, 11 states have already explored similar ideas. They extend across the country and include Wyoming, South Carolina, and Washington among others.
Senator Scott's links to the extension of Daylight Savings Time is connected to his time as governor. When acting as governor, Senator Scott actually did sign legislation to extend Daylight Savings Time and cited his belief that families across Florida would benefit from having more time to spend outside following their time indoors during the pandemic. Both Senator Scott and Senator Rubio cited studies from the American Journal of Public Health, as well as the U.S. Department of Energy and the Brookings Institution when making their arguments in favor of the bill.
There remain potential questions regarding whether or not Floridians will benefit from the extension of a Daylight Savings time extension; both because, of course, it is possible some of the benefits cited by the senators will occur, and because there could be negative consequences of the extension as well. While it is important that Floridians are able to have more time to potentially enjoy the state, Americans are still being cautioned regarding social distancing.
Whether or not the bill will pass remains to be seen, but Florida residents could very much be affected by it. However, if Daylight Savings Time is extended in Florida, it will not be extended across the United States in turn, which is important for residents to keep in mind.
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