Nick Krieger (@nckrieger):
Have you been feeling tired this week? It might be the consequence of Daylight Saving Time. So go ahead and grab another cup of coffee.
Some people continue to gripe about setting their clocks ahead for days after the time change actually occurs. And it appears that these people are not simply complainers. The shift to Daylight Saving Time—although only one hour different—can have lingering effects on certain people for a week or more according to some national studies.
The United States briefly experimented with Daylight Saving Time as an emergency energy-conservation measure during World War I and World War II. But between the end of World War II and 1966, no federal law provided for Daylight Saving Time in the United States.
Then, in 1966, Congress created a uniform system of Daylight Saving Time throughout the nation when it enacted the Uniform Time Act, 15 U.S.C. § 260a. At the same time, however, Congress permitted the individual states to opt out. Michigan became one of the first states to do so when the Michigan Legislature passed Public Act 6 of 1967, exempting the Great Lakes State from observing Daylight Saving Time and declaring that Michigan would remain on Eastern Standard Time all year long.
Certain citizens became dissatisfied and wanted to observe Daylight Saving Time in Michigan. They circulated petitions and collected enough signatures to subject Public Act 6 to a referendum. But at the general election of November 1968, the voters narrowly rejected the referendum question, and Michigan therefore continued to be exempt from Daylight Saving Time. Michigan did not observe Daylight Saving Time again until 1973.
Citizens once more circulated petitions in 1972, this time proposing to repeal Public Act 6 and restore Daylight Saving Time through the initiative process. At the general election of November 1972, the voters approved the initiated legislation and restored Daylight Saving Time in Michigan. Michigan observed Daylight Saving Time in 1973 and has done so every year since then.
Now, more than 40 years later, State Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) has introduced legislation that would again exempt Michigan from observing Daylight Saving Time (http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2015-2016/billintroduced/House/pdf/2015-HIB-4342.pdf). Irwin reasons that the shift to Daylight Saving Time does not result in any appreciable energy conservation, despite longstanding claims to the contrary. Consider the experience of Indiana. Much of Indiana did not observe Daylight Saving Time until 2006. Since that year, however, all of Indiana’s counties have made the one-hour change each March. What lessons were learned? Studies show that there was a total energy savings of less than 0.5 percent when Indiana moved to statewide Daylight Saving Time in 2006. Irwin also points to studies confirming a higher incidence of stress-related heart attacks on the Monday following the shift to Daylight Saving Time.
Will Irwin’s bill ultimately be adopted by the Legislature? There's no way of knowing. But if other states are any indication, the move away from Daylight Saving Time might be gaining momentum. While Arizona and Hawaii are the only states that currently do not observe Daylight Saving Time, bills similar to Irwin’s are pending in the Idaho, Florida, Texas, Missouri, Washington, and Alaska legislatures. Another such opt-out bill was narrowly defeated in the Tennessee legislature last year.
Critics of state opt-out legislation typically cite the supposed need for national uniformity, claiming that all states should be required to follow the same system. These critics assert that if certain states observe Daylight Saving Time and others do not, America will become a patchwork quilt of different times and travelers will be confused by the lack of standardization within any given time zone. They bemoan the fact that travelers will be forced to constantly change their watches as they leave one state and enter another.
Under Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, Congress surely has the power to implement a nationwide system of Daylight Saving Time without permitting states to opt out. Yet Congress has not done this, choosing instead to give the individual states freedom to resolve the matter according to their own needs. Every state is ultimately permitted to decide for itself whether to turn the clocks forward each spring.
Sometimes national uniformity is needed. Sometimes it’s not. Each day, the sun rises and sets at a known, predictable time. If one state adopts Daylight Saving Time and describes the hour of sunset as 9:30 p.m., but a neighboring state in the same time zone opts out of Daylight Saving Time and describes the hour of sunset as 8:30 p.m., it really doesn’t matter all that much, does it? Our national government is not placed in jeopardy by this one-hour discrepancy. In our federal system, where the states are sovereign, the states’ freedom to choose whether to observe Daylight Saving Time must surely outweigh the interest in convenience for the watch-wearing public.