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Opinion: Why we may never stop changing our clocks twice a year

A bill to allow permanent daylight saving time is languishing in Congress

A technician resets a large outdoor clock in Massachusetts.
Clock technician Dan LaMoore, of Woonsocket, R.I., adjusts clock hands on a large outdoor clock under construction at Electric Time Co. in Medfield, Mass. Daylight saving time ends Sunday at 2 a.m., when clocks are set back one hour.
Steven Senne, Associated Press

Nothing can make time stand still quite like waiting for someone to do something about how we are forced to change our clocks twice a year.

Tick tock, folks.

You want to rant about Washington? How about this:

The Democrats who control Congress are focused almost exclusively on pushing through an enormous (although shrinking) “Build Back Better” bill that’s so expensive it may have been partly responsible for recent party losses in state elections. Meanwhile, another bill that has broad support and would make a lot of people happy just sits there year after year.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is the main sponsor of a bill that would allow states to go to daylight saving time permanently. States already have the choice of making standard time permanent, but that doesn’t seem to be as popular, unless you live in Hawaii or Arizona, where abundant sunshine doesn’t have to be rationed.

So, on Sunday at 2 a.m., most of the country will do something Rubio describes as “stupid.”

“The overwhelming majority of members of Congress approve and support it (permanent daylight saving time),” he said in a video released this week on his website. “Let’s get it done. Let’s get it passed, so that we never have to do this stupid change again.”

Rubio has 23 co-sponsors to the Sunshine Protection Act, as it’s called, and these include members of both parties. At one point, former President Donald Trump tweeted that he would sign it if it reached his desk. And yet the yearly report on the bill sounds like something only a political cat with nine lives would experience: “Died in committee, died in committee, died in committee. ...”

Utah is one of 19 states that have passed laws to adopt daylight saving time as a permanent, year-round thing. Think of these laws as a stack of dominoes. In the case of the Beehive State, things start falling in place only if at least four other Western states pass similar laws. But nothing can happen at all unless Congress decides to set it all in motion.

And, well, Congress won’t give it the time of day.

One of the problems is that the time change, a vestige of world wars and the belief that more sunlight during waking hours saves energy, suffers from its own seasonal affective disorder.

Chances are you will curse the change (how does one turn a mechanical, chiming clock an hour backward?) on Sunday and for a few days thereafter. Scientists say even falling back with an hour more sleep messes with circadian rhythms, attentiveness and overall health.

But after a week or so, you won’t think about it anymore. Until March comes, and you lose the hour you just gained. Then you soon forget about that, too.

A wheel that squeaks only twice a year is easy to ignore.

Unless you’re a farmer, the parent of a special needs child who relies on routine or someone whose children have to walk to school in the dark. And these, unfortunately, tend to be on different sides of the issue of where clocks should land.

Through the years, I’ve heard from all sides.

Some parents say it’s more dangerous to send kids to school during the dark mornings daylight saving time provides. Unfortunately, some tragedies have borne this out. Others argue this is more than compensated by safer evenings, when cars are better able to see children playing in the lingering twilight.

Science seems to indicate that a permanent daylight saving time could mess with sleep patterns and lead to health problems. A study in 2017, published by the American Association for Cancer Research, found a link between that time and an increase in cancer cases, especially in the Western, or lightest, regions of time zones.

Farmers and golfers have their own take on sunshine and when it hits.

Europe thought it had all of this figured out. The European Union seemed to be on track to let its countries move to a permanent daylight saving scheme this year. But then, as London journalist Feargus O’Sullivan put in on Bloomberg.com, came “the pandemic, possibly with a small side order of Brexit.”

The wheels ground to a halt.

Despite all the arguments about where to set the clocks permanently, humans ought to be able to settle this. Couldn’t a majority, at least, agree that it’s not good to change them twice a year? Could we compromise — say, move clocks ahead worldwide by a half-hour?

Could someone throw this into an unrelated congressional stimulus bill and get the clock rolling, so to speak?

Jay Evensen is the Deseret News’ senior editorial columnist.