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No more changing clocks? Senate OKs ‘Sunshine Protection Act’ to make daylight saving time permanent

This story, originally published in The Dallas Morning News, is reprinted as part of a collaborative partnership between The Dallas Morning News and Texas Metro News. The partnership seeks to boost coverage of Dallas’ communities of color, particularly in southern Dallas.

House approval is still needed before going to President Joe Biden for his signature, and the act wouldn’t go into effect until November 2023.

The timing mechanism
The timing mechanism on the E. Howard & Co. tower clock in the Old Red Museum, in downtown Dallas was adjusted last week. A plan to have Texans vote on whether to stay on Daylight Saving Time or Standard Time year-round failed in the past in the Texas Legislature, but legislation to make DST permanent was approved by the U.S. Senate on March 15, 2022.(Tom Fox / Staff Photographer)

By Emily Caldwell

WASHINGTON — Acting the week that millions of Americans moved their clocks forward an hour, the U.S. Senate passed a bill Tuesday to make daylight saving time permanent year round, following through on an issue once pushed by former North Texas congressman Joe Barton.

The debate, which has bubbled up in the Texas Legislature as recently as 2019 in the form of a proposal that would have let Texans pick either daylight saving or standard time year-round and avoid having to change their clocks, has embroiled Congress for decades.

The current bill, known as the Sunshine Protection Act, was cosponsored by senators in both parties, and would make daylight saving time the new, permanent standard time. States with areas exempt from daylight saving time would still be able to choose the standard time for those areas.

The bill now heads to the House, which must pass it as well before it reaches the president’s desk.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a main sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said implementation of the bill to make daylight saving time permanent will be delayed until November 2023 if signed into law.

“Airlines, rails, transportation methods have already built out schedules based on” the existing schedule and time change, Rubio said on the Senate floor, C-SPAN reported. “They’ve asked for a few months to make that adjustment.”

Since 2007, daylight saving time has started each year at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday in March and lasted eight months, ending on the first Sunday in November.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005, sponsored by former Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington, who was chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, included the provision to extend daylight saving time in an attempt to save energy by letting people take advantage of additional daylight in the evening.

But research on whether the time change actually saves energy has been inconclusive at best — some have even found that extending the use of daylight hours encourages people to use more air conditioning and heating.

The history of daylight savings in the United States dates back to legislation known as the Standard Time Bill that President Woodrow Wilson signed into law on March 19, 1918.

In the early 1970s, as a result of the Arab oil embargo, Congress adopted year round daylight saving time. Farmers and parents of small children disliked the new law. They argued that children were going to school in pre-dawn hours and faced a greater risk of accidents.

Daylight saving time was then cut back to eight months, then six months. The U.S. currently observes DST from March to November, but not all states participate.

In Austin, a state House-approved plan to stop Texans from having to change clocks twice a year and let them pick either daylight saving or standard time year-round died in 2019 after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick failed to refer the legislation to a Senate committee.

The bill’s author, Rep. Lyle Larson said at the time that he was “very disappointed” his proposal was “summarily dismissed by the Senate.”

Larson, a San Antonio Republican who is not seeking reelection, had proposed a constitutional amendment and an enabling bill, and both easily cleared the House, but the idea of letting voters weigh in on clock changes never gained traction in the Senate.

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