Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to end seasonal time change
Pennsylvanians, like most Americans, will set their clocks ahead one hour by 2 a.m. Sunday, as the nation switches to daylight saving time.
If House member Russ Diamond, a Lebanon County Republican, has his way, it will be the last time Keystone State residents “spring forward.” He intends to sponsor a bill that, if passed by the General Assembly, would end Pennsylvania’s participation in the daylight saving practice.
“I’m hopeful we could get this through and get that accomplished before it comes time to spring forward again in 2020,” Diamond said, noting he expects co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. “I really don’t want Pennsylvanians losing sleep over this anymore.”
If the bill becomes law, Pennsylvania would join U.S. lands farther to the south, with less seasonal variation in sunlight, that don’t observe daylight saving time — Hawaii, parts of Arizona and the territories of Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. The Navajo Nation, which is located in northeastern Arizona, does take part in DST, at odds with the rest of the state.
When daylight saving time gained initial acceptance about a century ago, it was meant to curb domestic energy consumption during World War I. The seasonal time shift was officially standardized in 1966, but opponents argue it has outlived its purpose.
“The energy savings have been, at best, negligible,” Diamond said. In fact, there are studies that show Americans actually use more energy when daylight saving time is in effect.
Modern workplaces employ climate control and energy-efficient lighting around the clock, Diamond wrote this week in a memo accompanying his proposed bill, adding, “There is no national crisis that changing clocks helps to alleviate.”
But Diamond is most worried by research indicating the disruption of sleep patterns and fatigue that comes with the shift to daylight saving time can trigger increased rates of heart attacks — along with miscarriages, depression, traffic crashes and workplace injuries, as people strain to adjust to the altered time schedule.
“I think that outweighs everything,” he said.
In addition to health hazards, those factors cause a drain on the economy.
Diamond cited a 2016 study by Chmura Economics & Analytics that calculated a DST-related annual national cost in lost productivity equal to almost $434 million. For the Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area, the cost was estimated at nearly $5.8 million — or about $2.42 per person, the 13th-highest figure among more than 300 regions analyzed. Morgantown, W.Va., topped the list, with a cost of about $3.38 per person.
Diamond believes those employed in Pennsylvania’s leading industry, agriculture, should welcome eliminating daylight saving time adjustments, which he noted have no bearing on the natural sunlight that is important for raising crops and animals. “Cows don’t wear watches,” he pointed out.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau hasn’t adopted a stance on the issue, spokesman Mark O’Neill said.
Since a 2007 extension, daylight saving time in the United States has begun on the second Sunday in March and ended on the first Sunday in November, when people set their clocks back an hour.
If Pennsylvania bids farewell to the practice, Diamond hopes neighboring states will follow suit.
West Virginia is among several states, including Florida, Tennessee and California, where some lawmakers want to keep daylight saving time in place year-round. Like Diamond’s proposal, that would eliminate the jarring seasonal switch between time schedules. However, it would require Congressional approval and would make for a delayed sunrise and an extended evening with a later sunset.
“I don’t think it’s very likely any state is going to get any action out of Congress,” Diamond said.
Last year, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida sponsored the Sunshine Protection Act, a federal bill with the larger aim of making daylight saving time year-round throughout the country — except in areas, like Hawaii and Arizona, that have opted out.
Year-round daylight saving time was in place during World War II, from Feb. 9, 1942, to Sept. 30, 1945. A planned return to a year-round schedule in the 1970s, spurred by the OPEC oil embargo, fell short by several months. In 1974, it lasted from Jan. 6 to Oct. 27. It resumed the following year, from Feb. 23 to Oct. 26.
The Pennsylvania Retailers Association would be supportive of a year-round daylight saving time, more so than remaining with Eastern Standard Time throughout the year, Executive Director John Holub said. “It’s the falling back that we don’t like,” he said, referring to the return to standard time each November.
“There are some studies out there showing that stores are impacted by the falling back,” he said. “Some of the arguments are that if you go home from work when it’s dark out, you’re less likely to go to a store and do some shopping.”
Diamond’s concern about the fatigue-related fallout from springing forward is shared by Ryan McMaken, communications director for the Mises Institute, an Alabama-based research and teaching center that focuses on economic theory and policy, with an emphasis on free markets, entrepreneurship and private property.
“There has never been any conclusive scientific evidence that it is worth the trouble,” McMaken said of the annual switch back and forth between times. “It would appear the best thing to do is just pick one time and stick with it, and stop the twice-annual changes, whether one is using DST or not. People won’t care if the chosen time is DST or not, as people are going to become acclimated to the one, constant time.”
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .