Opinion

Permanent daylight saving time sounds great for Kansas and U.S., but careful what you wish for

March 21, 2022 3:33 am

Kansas Senate leadership huddles around a clock in the Kansas Legislature. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Bipartisan hope springs eternal in the breast of a red state opinion editor.

That’s why I was delighted to see last week that the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to stop changing our clocks back and forth twice a year, by making daylight saving time permanent. The only downside was the vote happened while I took a few days off, although that time was useful in adjusting my own increasingly creaky body to the gruesome realities of springing forward for the spring.

What other issue could unite U.S. Sens. Roger Marshall and Jerry Moran along with liberal stalwart Chuck Schumer and progressive icon Bernie Sanders? (Possibly naming a post office after someone famous, but more on that in a moment.)

Everyone hates changing their clocks, especially moving them forward. Researchers have discovered negative health effects from both. As I dragged myself from bed last week, I cursed every missing minute.

One especially delighted onlooker was Kansas Rep. Shannon Francis, R-Liberal.

He’s co-sponsoring a resolution calling for year-round Daylight Saving Time. He made the case for the change last year to Kansas Reflector. No surprise, he still thinks it’s a good idea and that senators in Washington, D.C., made the right call.

Kansas Rep. Shannon Francis, R-Liberal, co-sponsored a resolution making daylight saving time permanent. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

“I was glad to see the Senate pass the bill making daylight savings time permanent,” Francis said. “I hope the House of Representatives takes up the issue this year. The semi-annual time change is the real issue because it leads to sleep difficulties, increased heart attacks, strokes, car accidents and depression.”

All neat and tidy, right? We just need the U.S. House to follow the Senate’s lead and President Joe Biden to sign the bill.

Unfortunately, I doubt that’s going to happen soon. That might be a good thing, too.

According to reporting from Buzzfeed News, the legislation made it through as part of the Senate’s consent agenda. That’s meant to contain noncontroversial legislation, such as Post Office namings and other feel-good trifles. Somehow, the time change made it onto the list.

“Any single senator could have blocked the daylight saving bill from passing but many didn’t know it was even happening,” wrote Buzzfeed’s Paul McLeod. “Sen. Rick Scott, a permanent daylight saving time proponent who signed a similar bill into law when he was governor of Florida, said he would have gone to give a speech on the Senate floor if he had known. Asked to re-create his reaction to the news, Sen. Chris Coons issued a series of shocked stammers that is impossible to phonetically translate.”

Whoops.

Was this outbreak of bipartisanship really just an errant staffer’s mistake?

We’ll have to wait and see. Your move, Nancy Pelosi. In the meantime, we should debate whether we actually want permanent daylight saving time. Sure, it shifts sunlight later in the day, but that contradicts the body’s circadian rhythms.

According to the Washington Post, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine thinks we should stick permanently with standard time. It is, after all, the standard.

“We do applaud stopping the switching during the course of the year and settling on a permanent time,” said Jocelyn Cheng, a member of the academy, to the Post. But she added that “standard time, for so many scientific and circadian rationales and public health safety reasons, should really be what the permanent time is set to.”

With daylight saving time, we are perpetually out of synchronization with our internal clocks and we often achieve less nighttime sleep, both circumstances having negative health impacts.

– David Neubauer

David Neubauer, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University, put it this way to Post reporter Allyson Chiu: “With daylight saving time, we are perpetually out of synchronization with our internal clocks and we often achieve less nighttime sleep, both circumstances having negative health impacts. Extra evening light suppresses the melatonin that should be preparing us for falling asleep. The later dawn during daylight saving time deprives our biological clocks of the critical light signal.”

Who would have guessed? Solutions that sound quick and easy turn out to be considerably more complicated and challenging than first expected.

The arguments against changing our clocks sound rock solid. Almost everyone agrees there. But just because we agree on the problem doesn’t mean that we all know the best solution.

The United States has already tried this once before. In 1974, lawmakers passed a two-year trial run of permanent daylight saving time. It only lasted 10 months before being repealed, with parents especially unhappy about sending children to school in the dark. As said earlier in this column: Whoops.

If lawmakers want to get together and actually solve this problem in 2022, I’m all for it. Real bipartisanship is great.

On the other hand, so are real solutions.

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Clay Wirestone
Clay Wirestone

Clay Wirestone has written columns and edited reporting for newsrooms in Kansas, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania. He has also fact checked politicians, researched for Larry the Cable Guy, and appeared in PolitiFact, Mental Floss, cnn.com and a host of other publications. Clay spent 2017 to 2021 at the nonprofit Kansas Action for Children as communications director. Beyond the written word, he has drawn cartoons, hosted podcasts, designed graphics and moderated debates. Clay graduated from the University of Kansas and lives in Lawrence with his husband and son.

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