Yesterday, Californians went through our twice-yearly ritual – changing the clocks one hour as our observance of Daylight Saving Time ends.
If you’re like me, you spent Saturday night going around the house changing the myriad clocks on the wall and in appliances, while hunting for the owner’s manual to figure out how to change the time on my watch.
While we all welcome the extra hour of sleep, some California lawmakers are betting that we’ll vote to “fall back” permanently on Election Day.
If it passes, Proposition 7 would authorize the Legislature by a two-thirds vote to change Daylight Saving Time in California.
At first glance, this seems like a silly proposition. Isn’t this something the Legislature should decide, if at all, you ask?
Well, the Legislative Analyst’s office notes in their nonpartisan analysis of Prop. 7 that “in 1949, California voters approved an initiative measure which established (Daylight Saving Time) in California (and) the Legislature can only make changes to that initiative measure by submitting those changes to the voters for their approval.”
California is one of a growing number of states to consider proposals to make Daylight Saving Time permanent. According to the Mercury News, Florida just passed legislation to make the switch, and proposals are under consideration in 5 other states. Hawaii and much of Arizona don’t observe Daylight Saving Time.
Democratic Assemblymember Kansen Chu, who is the Legislature’s biggest proponent of this change, cites studies showing that people have more heart attacks and strokes following a time change. He, along with cardiologist Dr. Sion Roy and fellow Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, note in the official ballot argument supporting Prop. 7 that we could also save money, as “changing our clocks twice a year increases our use of electricity 4 percent . . . and comes with a cost of $434 million.”
Those are both good points in favor of making the change. But the flip side is Californians living in either darkness or daylight at times of the day when we’re not accustomed to it.
As the odd couple of Democratic Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson and Republican Asm. Phillip Chen note in their opposition ballot argument, “if you live in Los Angeles or Twentynine Palms, the sun won’t rise until 7:30 a.m. or later from November to February.”
Geography class reminds us that when the sun rises and sets is dependent upon the calendar and location. Recently, I spent a week in Salt Lake City and it was unusual to see the sun rise well after 7 a.m. While it was fine while traveling, I don’t know that I would enjoy that on a permanent basis, and I think most Californians would find it a strange, and even unwelcome, shift.
I think the voters’ verdict on Proposition 7 will channel the title of perhaps Travis Tritt’s greatest hit – here’s a quarter, call someone who cares.
At the end of the day, I question why we are spending so much time literally debating the time, when we should be focusing on more important priorities like solving our housing crisis or lifting Californians out of poverty. I suspect that most Californians will have a similar thought when they cast their ballots on Prop. 7.
Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s communications director.