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Clock running out on ending daylight savings*

The clock tower at the San Francisco Ferry Building. (Photo: jejim, via Shutterstock)

California voters likely won’t get a chance after all to decide whether to end daylight savings time.

Assemblymember Kansen Chu, D-San Jose, has been pushing to end the annual clock adjustment in response to requests from constituents. He has heard complaints from parents of young children who have trouble putting their kids to bed as well as seniors who are thrown off schedule for a week or more when the time changes. Chu added that companies out of state may find it easier to do business with California if the state keeps on the same time year round.

“If we don’t switch back and forth, you eliminate that level of confusion,” Chu said.

The United States officially began the practice during World War I in 1918 as a way to extend the length of the work day.

But Chu’s bill, Assembly Bill 385, which would have put the issue on the 2018 statewide ballot, was rejected Aug. 23 in the Senate in a 17-17 tie vote. The measure needed 21 votes to pass the 40-member house. The bill isn’t dead — not yet: Backers of the bill received permission to bring it up for another vote before the Legislature adjourns  Aug. 31. But the measure’s ultimate fate remained uncertain.

Michael McDonald, a Fair Oaks resident voiced his support of daylight savings time on Facebook after learning about the move.  He said he appreciates the extra daylight hours after work to use for outdoor recreation like bicycling.

“I enjoy getting out and doing things in the evening,” he said.

The idea for daylight savings time came from Benjamin Franklin, who noticed in the late 18th century that people often slept during early morning daylight hours and then burned candles staying up after dark.

The United States officially began the practice during World War I in 1918 as a way to extend the length of the work day and to save fuel by reducing the need for lighting at night. States and communities were free to enact or not enact it after that. In California, voters chose to adopt daylight savings time in 1949.

Chu said this nearly 70-year-old experiment has gone on long enough and now needs a review. “It’s about time for us to put it back to voters and pretty much let them decide whether they want to keep daylight savings or Pacific standard time,” he said.

National Institutes of Health studies have connected daylight savings time with a reduction in pedestrian and drive deaths and a decrease in robberies.

Times have changed since daylight savings time was enacted and the initial positive benefits no longer apply, Chu said. “Energy consumption is very, very different today than back in the 1940s,” he said, pointing out that energy use goes up at night today because of use of home appliances. “There is no energy savings whatsoever.”

Moreover, the time switch creates health issues, including work-related accidents and car accidents during the week after the clock jumps forward, he said.

However, National Institutes of Health studies have connected daylight savings time with a reduction in pedestrian and drive deaths and a decrease in robberies, according to the state senate analysis of the bill.

Arizona, Hawaii do not observe daylight savings time. In the rest of the world, 76 countries observe daylight savings time, affecting 1.6 billion people, the senate analysis of the bill said.

McDonald said the elimination of daylight savings time would hurt retail sales, attendance at sporting events and some tourism businesses.

Chu said he would prefer that California stay on daylight savings time year-round (rather than Pacific standard time) but that is not an option without federal approval because of the Uniform Time Act of 1966. But Chu believes California voters support for ending the time switch could sway the federal government to change the law. “If we pass this bill, it will send a very strong message to Washington, D.C.,” he said.

Chu said he has heard mostly positive feedback from the public about his move to end the clock changes. Less than 5 percent of people have told him they want to keep daylight savings time and those for the most part wouldn’t mind staying on it year-round.

McDonald said the elimination of daylight savings time would hurt retail sales, attendance at sporting events and some tourism businesses. People go out more during daylight hours, he said.

He said anyone who enjoys being outdoors appreciates daylight savings time. “If you’re an indoor person, you don’t care if it’s light or dark outdoors,” he said.

From a public health standpoint, McDonald believes daylight savings time is the way to go.

“We have become an overweight society,” he said. “We need more reasons to be active, not more reasons to be sedentary.”

*Ed’s Note: Updates and recasts 4th graf to reflect Senate action blocking bill in a 17-17 vote, four shy of the number needed for passage. Headline updated to conform.  

 

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