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Push to make daylight saving time permanent has longtime backers

AP-Steven Senne

The Senate’s swift passage of a proposal to make daylight saving time permanent caught members and the public off-guard this week and led to plenty of cheering on social media about ending the “spring ahead” and “fall back” changes to the clock.

It also dovetailed with a decades-long effort by some business groups who want to maximize the hours per day that American consumers spend buying things.

The effort to push permanent daylight saving time has been particularly advocated by golf groups, who see it as a way to keep people on the greens for more of the year.

“Permanent daylight saving time has been most often supported by chambers of commerce and golf lobbyists, and somewhat travel [lobbyists] as well, the idea being that if people perceive daylight after work, they’re more likely to take a joy ride, go shopping and maybe play some golf,” Jay Pea, founder of the Save Standard Time nonprofit organization, which advocates for using only standard time and doing away with daylight saving time altogether, said in an interview. 

The Sunshine Protection Act was offered by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and passed the Senate unanimously Tuesday night. In advocating for the measure, Rubio said the change would reduce seasonal affective disorder in the late fall and early winter, and allow kids more time to play outside.

“There’s strong science behind it that is now showing and making people aware of the harm that clock switching has, there’s an increase in heart attacks, car accidents and pedestrian accidents,” he said.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a co-sponsor, said pushing the clock back an hour in the fall deprived his state of light.

“Pretty much everybody in Rhode Island experiences the same thing on that unhappy day in early November,” he said, “when suddenly an hour of your day, an hour of your daylight disappears and dusk comes an hour earlier,” he said.

The National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA), a trade group for the golf industry, wouldn’t provide an official industry position on the legislation, but one of its directors said the bill had broad support among its members.

“The majority of our members are in favor of it,” Ronnie Miles, the NGCOA’s director of advocacy, said in a phone interview. “Many operators would prefer an extra hour of sunlight for tee times.”

This sentiment was echoed in a 2021 letter to the Michigan legislature, then considering similar cancellation of seasonal clock changes, from Michigan Golf Course Association President Jada Paisley. 

She wrote that “the elimination of [daylight saving time] would affect the golf courses in Michigan by taking away playable evening hours, some of the most important revenue hours from public golf courses.”

“The golf industry in Michigan, which represents $4.2 billion in total economic impact and $1.2 billion in wage contribution, would oppose ending daylight saving time,” her letter went on.

A 2018 study by the World Golf Foundation found that golf generates $84.1 billion a year in the U.S. alone. Of that, around $11 billion, or 13 percent, belongs to the golf industry in Rubio’s home state, according to a 2015 report prepared by SRI International.

The golf “industry estimated as early as the 1980s that an additional month of daylight-saving time would mean hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to the industry,” Lyle Beckwith, a representative for the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), testified to Congress earlier this month.

Other sectors of the recreation and tourism industries place a similar premium on daylight hours for their bottom lines. At least two Alaskan sightseeing floatplane operators wrote to their own legislatures last year as Alaska considered its own move to permanent daylight saving time.

Presidents of Wings Airways and Ward Air Inc. said in separate letters that permanent daylight saving time “would maintain the existing daylight hours in the summer that are critical for the Alaska tourist industry to maximize tourist excursions” and “extend daylight hours later in the day during the winter, allowing for later flight operations.”

The letter from Wings Airways President Holly Johnson notes that the concept of a yearlong daylight saving time “has support from many industries.”

Pea, however, argues that permanent daylight saving time would have negative effects on people’s health.

“The reality is, of course, that if we’re forcing people to wake up early, we’re depriving them of sleep over the long term, and that harms public health and safety,” he said.

Following the passage of the Senate bill on Tuesday, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) released a statement cautioning that establishing permanent daylight saving time may overlook potential health risks that could be avoided by establishing permanent standard time instead.

A 2020 AASM position paper maintains that “current evidence best supports the adoption of year-round standard time, which aligns best with human circadian biology and provides distinct benefits for public health and safety.” 

The statement was endorsed by organizations including the American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, National PTA, National Safety Council, Society for Research on Biological Rhythms and World Sleep Society.

While not all business sectors are in favor of a move to permanent daylight saving time, preferring instead to keep switching clocks in the spring and autumn, few industries prefer standard time to daylight saving time.

“The bottom line is that daylight saving time is good for business and commerce across the United States,” Beckwith, of NACS, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 9.

“The idea of switching our clocks is that we need to maximize the light we have at all times of year,” he said.

Other lobbies that have taken issue with the Senate’s proposal include various airline groups as well as the National Association of Broadcasters, which has concerns about airtime for AM radio stations licensed to operate specifically during daylight hours and those that receive reduced signal power after dark.

It’s unclear when — or if — the House will take up the legislation, as the body considers matters related to the funding for COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine.

“I’m really thinking about dying people and I’m thinking about what’s going on in Ukraine,” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said Wednesday. “We just had [Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr Zelensky] here. I don’t give a damn about what people think about it,” she added, referring to the Senate-passed proposal.

Tags Daylight savings time Golf Marco Rubio Maxine Waters Sheldon Whitehouse

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