Wednesday, May 12, 2021
May 12, 2021

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In Our View: Congress should OK daylight saving time bill

The Columbian

You’re confused, aren’t you?

While reading this in the morning paper or on your phone or tablet, bleary-eyed from having the clocks spring forward in the middle of the night, you’re thinking that this was all behind us. Aren’t you?

Indeed, the Legislature in 2019 passed a bill approving permanent daylight saving time in Washington. The idea was to do away with the biannual changing of the clocks; considering that it passed overwhelmingly in both chambers, it seems to be a pretty popular idea.

So what gives? Why did our clocks leap ahead last night, shortening sleep time by 60 minutes?

Well, Washington’s law will likely require an act of Congress – literally. Congress could pass a law allowing Washington (along with Oregon, California and more than 25 other states that have passed similar legislation) to stay on daylight saving time year-round. Or it could pass a law voiding standard time across the country.

Currently, states may unilaterally stay on standard time throughout the year, as Hawaii and Arizona have chosen to do. But daylight saving time requires congressional approval.

There also is another path to saving daylight. In a quirk of bureaucracy, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has the power to enact the change because his department is the federal government’s official keeper of the clocks.

But for now, we’ll leave it up to Congress. There, a bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation to adopt daylight saving time around the calendar. “The call to end the antiquated practice of clock changing is gaining momentum throughout the nation,” Florida Republican Marco Rubio said. Then again, a similar bill introduced a year ago wasn’t given the time of day.

The benefits of eschewing the time change go beyond mere convenience. Various studies have linked a lack of sleep at the start of daylight saving time to an increase in car accidents, workplace injuries, suicide, miscarriages and heart attacks. And the early evening darkness after the return to standard time has been linked to depression.

So, there are good arguments for eliminating the time change.

But the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has recommended standard time. “Permanent, year-round standard time is the best choice to most closely match our circadian sleep-wake cycle,” Dr. M. Adeel Rishi of the Mayo Clinic says. “Daylight saving time results in more darkness in the morning and more light in the evening, disrupting the body’s natural rhythm.”

Not that we are trying to shine a light on the arguments. The pros and cons have been debated, and the Legislature decided that daylight saving time is best, so daylight saving time it shall be – if Congress approves.

Meanwhile, we can’t help but wonder why we are in this mess to begin with. Daylight saving apparently started as a method for saving energy by aligning waking hours with the sunlight hours. If it’s not dark out, you are less likely to turn on the lights.

Over time, that resulted in patchwork laws that varied from state to state and were confusing to anybody who crossed state lines — like those in the transportation industry. So the Uniform Time Act of 1966 established national standards and defined when daylight saving time would begin and end in all the states.

We know, we know, that is a lot to absorb after a sleep-deprived night. So we’ll just say that Congress should allow Washington to stick with daylight saving time.

And now you can go back to bed.