Florida weighs seceding from daylight saving time

MIAMI — The Sunshine State is on the verge of becoming sunnier — or at least brighter — every evening under a proposal to stop the biannual changing of the clocks and switch Florida to daylight saving time year-round.

No more falling back and gaining an hour of sleep in November. No more springing forward and losing an hour of sleep in March. Florida, in keeping with its outlier character, would secede from the national timetable and enjoy extra daylight after the sun sets in the rest of the Eastern Time Zone.

But before you get out the golf clubs or fire up the grill, consider the complications of a permanent move away from standard time. It could play havoc with your TV viewing habits when sports events start an hour later or the New Year’s Eve ball-drop in Times Square occurs at 1 a.m. FT — Florida Time — instead of midnight. “Saturday Night Live” would be more like “Sunday Morning Live” at 12:30 a.m., and Golden State Warriors games at 11:30 p.m. might mean no more Alec Baldwin sketches or Steph Curry 3-pointers for the bleary-eyed. Airline itineraries could cause headaches when you realize that your 9 a.m. flight from Miami to LaGuardia will arrive at 11 a.m. EST instead of noon. Doing business outside our peninsula? You’ll have to recalibrate meeting times and remember that the New York Stock Exchange opens at 10:30 a.m. here.

“The current system has existed for 100 years and is working fine in 70 countries,” said David Prerau, author of “Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time.” “To change it, you have to make a tradeoff. There are a lot of pros to daylight saving time, but I’m not hearing much discussion in Florida about the cons.”

The Florida Legislature has passed a bill called the “Sunshine Protection Act” that would ask Congress to allow the state to stay year-round on daylight saving time, which currently runs nearly eight months of the year, from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November. We’re set to move our clocks ahead one hour this Sunday.

Two other states got approval to exempt themselves from the 1966 federal law that sets a uniform time and yearly schedule for all time zones. Hawaii, which is three time zones away from the west coast, and Arizona, which aims to lessen the scalding heat of its summers, are on standard time year-round.

“Staying on standard time is a non-issue here,” said Todd Sanders, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. He pointed out that the Navajo Nation switches to daylight saving time every spring. “We feel like we’re the constant and the rest of the world moves around us. It helps us manage our energy bills because it cools down earlier. As for air, rail and truck traffic, it’s not a factor. We’re out of sync with the other mountain states for four months, but people don’t really think about it.”

The effect of the change in Florida would make sunrise and sunset an hour later. For example, on the shortest day of 2017, the winter solstice of the northern hemisphere on Dec. 21, sunrise was at 7:04 a.m. and sunset was at 5:34 p.m. Under daylight saving time, sunrise would have been at 8:04 a.m. and sunset at 6:34 p.m.

As the winter days lengthen, sunrise would be around 7:30 a.m. and sunset at about 7:30 p.m. under daylight saving time.

Florida joined the rest of the country in a switch to year-round daylight saving time during the energy crisis of 1974, when the federal government mandated a two-year change. But the reaction to dark mornings was negative, especially from Florida, where Gov. Reubin Askew cited an increase in accidents that injured or killed children on their way to school.

“Florida took the lead and because of that pressure the second year of daylight saving time was repealed,” Prerau said. “Today, one of the biggest cons (of daylight saving time) remains sunrise as late as 8:30 a.m. in parts of Florida, which means it would be pitch dark for school kids and early commuters. People do not like dark mornings and that’s the main reason daylight saving time has not been adopted year-round.”

Florida would be an hour ahead of New York City and Washington, D.C., not to mention the other major cities along the Eastern seaboard.

“The Eastern Time Zone is by far the biggest in the U.S. because areas want to be on the same time as our financial and political capitals,” Prerau said. “Indiana was on standard time year-round, but companies hated the confusion and lost business because of it. Companies didn’t want to locate to Indiana. And it was awkward for people living near the state borders.”

Prerau has studied the impact of daylight saving time on traffic accidents and street crime, which both decreased; voter turnout, which increased; agricultural practices, religious groups and sports score reporting. He also found that people would stay awake an extra hour to watch their favorite TV programs, “which resulted in much more sleep loss than on the one day when clocks are set forward.”

“Farmers are against daylight saving time because they have to interact with the rest of the nation and world,” Prerau said. “Certain religious groups that meet for morning prayers after sunrise are opposed to it because if your meeting doesn’t end until 8:30-9 a.m., it interferes with work.”

Josh Liebman, a South Miami city commissioner and an avid runner, is in favor of daylight saving time.

“For morning runners in South Florida, it could be beneficial because it stays darker and cooler, although it’s harder to wake up in the dark,” he said. “The longer it stays light, the better it is for businesses because there are more people walking around, frequenting shops and restaurants.”

Benjamin Franklin originated the concept of daylight saving time as a way to save candle wax. When he found he was oversleeping in Paris, he encouraged the French to fire off cannons at sunrise to awaken citizens so they could utilize more hours of daylight and reduce candle use. William Willett first proposed changing clocks in England in 1908, but Germany, seeking to save on energy costs during World War I, was the first country to enact the practice in 1915, followed by the U.S. and other nations in 1918. Winston Churchill was a proponent during World War II.

The U.S. has the longest period of daylight saving time — almost eight months per year, and in 2007 it was nearly extended to nine. Most countries are on it for six months.

Massachusetts pre-dates Florida as a rogue state, implementing daylight saving time on its own in the 1920s under Gov. Calvin Coolidge. A group of residents challenged the law, and the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in the state’s favor. The state currently follows the national timetable.

Daylight saving time became so popular in the U.S. after World War II that it was adopted by individual cities. At one point the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul were on dueling time standards, which helped spur the federal government to enact the uniform schedule 52 years ago.

If Florida decides to stop changing clocks, it would prevent the most curious conflict Prerau encountered when he was a consultant on time change for the U.S. and U.K. governments: the inheritance rights of twins.

What if a mother gives birth when the clock falls back and one twin is born at 1:55 a.m. and the next is born 10 minutes later, which reverts to 1:05 a.m.?

“The times on the birth certificates would show that the second twin is actually the first-born,” Prerau said. “British titles and estates are all inherited by the oldest son. This created quite a quandary. These twins could argue their whole lives over who is the oldest.”

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