This past Sunday, almost all Americans went through the usual ritual of changing the time on their clocks. In this process we spring ahead every spring (although technically still winter) and fall back every fall. The fall is usually a happier time since there is an added hour of sleep. Inevitably, losing that hour in the spring always has people questioning why we continue to shift between standard time and daylight time. As with many things, there is a law related to the whole process.
Many credit Benjamin Franklin with suggesting the notion of daylight saving time (and yes, there is only one “s” in saving) to take better advantage of working during the hours that the sun was up. Considering that there was no electricity at the time, this idea did make practical sense. In the United States, the current process was enshrined in Chapter 24 in 1918 (also known as Public Law 65-106) during World War I. This Act was to save daylight and provide standard time for the United States. Under section 1, the U.S. was divided into five time zones established at varying degrees of longitude. This created United States standard eastern time, central time, mountain time, pacific time, and Alaska time. Section 3 of the act established that at 2:00 AM on the last Sunday of March, the standard time for each zone would move ahead one hour and move back on the last Sunday in October at 2:00 AM. One year later, Chapter 51 was passed, repealing section 3.
But daylight saving time reappeared when Congress Passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966, Public Law 89-387, which re-established the daylight savings time, setting the clocks forward on the last Sunday in April and backwards the last Sunday in October every year. The time zones also increased/changed to Atlantic, eastern, central, mountain, Pacific, Yukon, Alaska-Hawaii, and Bering. The exact dates for making the switch changed a few times over the years, with the most recent iteration springing ahead on the second Sunday in March and falling back on the first Sunday in November as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Public Law 109-58. The United States Code currently outlines time in Title 15 §§ 260-67. Although these laws set standardization of time for the entire country, two states, Hawaii, and Arizona, do not observe daylight saving time. Arizona rejected daylight saving in 1968 and enacted it in their statutes at § 1-242(c). Hawaii rejected daylight saving time in 1967 enacting § 1-31.
Every time the clocks move, inevitably, someone asks why we still follow this practice. The talk might even spur some in government into action to change this, but inevitably it never passes. This year, the Senate is not just talking about a change, it is trying to make the change. The U.S. Senate passed, with unanimous consent, S. 623, known as the Sunshine Protection Act of 2021. The Act repeals the temporary period for daylight saving time, which was section 3 of the Uniform Time Act of 1966, and moves standard time back one hour in each time zone. Effectively, this would make daylight saving time the new permanent standard time. The House would need to pass similar legislation, H.R. 69 is currently in committee, and the President would have to sign it into law for this to actually take effect.