Californians early Sunday will join most of the country in the yearly ritual of switching their clocks an hour ahead for daylight saving time. Will they be allowed to keep them that way?
In a surprise move last November, Californians made clear they are tired of changing their clocks and want to keep their long sunny afternoons at the expense of morning darkness. Nearly 60 percent of voters approved a ballot measure aimed at making daylight saving time year-round.
So what’s going on with that?
Two things have to happen before the time change could become permanent.
Proposition 7, which voters approved in November, merely allows the state Legislature to change the daylight saving time period. But the change would have to conform with federal law, which currently doesn’t allow it.
To take the next step, Assemblyman Kansen Chu, D-San Jose, the November ballot measure’s sponsor, has introduced a bill — AB 7 — with bipartisan support from Assembly members Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, and Jay Obernolte, R-Big Bear Lake, to secure the Legislature’s approval.
“The voters have spoken and they are telling lawmakers that spring forward and fall back should be eliminated,” Chu said in introducing the bill in December. If approved by a two-thirds vote and signed by the governor, the bill would make the next switch to daylight saving time permanent. It is expected to be scheduled for a committee hearing later this month.
“We’re going to try to push it through as soon as possible,” said Annie Pham, Chu’s chief of staff. “If it passes and if the feds allow us to do it, we’ll just spring forward one year and just stay there.”
But it may be challenging to sell two-thirds of state lawmakers on permanent daylight saving time.
Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Tehama, dismissed the idea last year as “fixing something that is not broken.” And State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Assemblyman Phillip Chen, R-Brea, noted their opposition in the ballot argument against Prop 7.
“Those of you who like to wake up with the sun will wake up in the dark,” they wrote. The country, they added, experimented with year-round daylight time to ease fuel shortages during the Nixon administration in 1974, only to abandon the idea after 10 months “because people hated the fact that in the morning, the sun rose too late.”
Jackson and Chen didn’t respond to questions about how the legislation might fare now after voters registered overwhelming support. Gov. Gavin Newsom did not respond to questions about whether he’d sign such a bill.
But Nadine Knoth of San Jose hopes they heed the will of the voters. She’s likes more afternoon daylight for safety reasons and is tired of switching her clocks.
“I hope that they pass it through,” Knoth, 77, said. “I’m very much into the sunshine.”
Then there’s Congress, which operates on a time zone often described as glacial.
California’s not the only sunbelt state interested in keeping its afternoons as sunny as possible — Florida lawmakers, with public support, last year overwhelmingly passed legislation to make daylight saving time year-round in the Sunshine State.
Bills introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, asked Congress to approve the change , either in Florida alone or across the country. His bills died in committee. But Rubio reintroduced legislation March 6.
Daylight saving time originated as an energy saving measure during World War I. But advocates like Chu and Rubio point to other benefits, arguing it reduces crime and traffic collisions and improves the economy and personal health by promoting exercise and eliminating the stress of the time change.
“Studies have shown many benefits of a year-round Daylight Saving Time, which is why Florida’s legislature overwhelmingly voted to make it permanent last year,” Rubio said. “Reflecting the will of the State of Florida, I’m proud to reintroduce this bill to make daylight saving time permanent nationally.”