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The Sunshine Protection Act Unanimously Passes in the Senate

Earlier this month, United States senators set aside their differences in a mutual hatred of turning the clocks each spring and fall, reaching across the aisle to unanimously approve the Sunshine Protection Act. 

Now sent to the House of Representatives for deliberation, and later President Joe Biden if approved, the act would come into effect in November of 2023. This means that many who grow weary as the sun sets in the early evening during the winter months can enjoy sunlight as long as they do in the summer. Expedited by the unanimous approval procedure within the Senate, the United States is one step closer to permanently abiding by Daylight Savings Time. 

One of the main sponsors of the act is Florida Senator Marco Rubio. He, amongst other proponents, argues that American citizens would prefer the extra sunlight in the winter months to avoid seasonal depression. Various health benefits have been cited, such as increased heart health and productivity, as well as the fact that fewer car accidents or crimes occur when not under the blanket of darkness. 

For environmentalists, this change aims to reduce energy consumption in the U.S., as sunnier working hours would mean less reliance on fossil fuel electricity for light. From an economic standpoint, politicians hope that more sunlight in the traditional nine-to-five workday will help workers feel more awake, constructive, and positive in the workplace. Citizen support is not surprising as, for many, the comfort of more sunshine could alleviate the dreariness of frigid temperatures and intense snowfalls. 

The history of Daylight Savings Time in the United States dates back to World War I and II. First implemented in 1918, the goal was that longer days would reduce energy use and allow for reallocation of funds to the war effort. Following the end of World War I, Congress repealed it before it reappeared in the 1940s under the nickname “War Time.”  The “falling back” and “springing forward” of the clocks became a societal norm in the early 60s before settling into the March-November Daylight Savings Time observation under President George W. Bush in 2005. 

The historical flip-flopping of Daylight Savings Time demonstrates its inherent purpose as it was often repealed when not needed. Opponents of the time switch argue that the natural cycles of animals and crops in the farming sector follow the hours of sunlight rather than hours of human activity. This could damper the efficacy of the act as it may indicate that the permanence of Daylight Savings time may not improve productivity.  

Since the act has received a flare of bipartisan support, citizens have reacted fondly to its passing, especially when gridlock and policy polarization often plague Senate and House proceedings. However, the upcoming House deliberation may not fare well for sunshine lovers as many representatives have voiced opposition. Most opposition stems from evidence for maintaining the biological clock the human body follows or simply from the fact that this act has been passed before—and it failed. 

In 1973, Congress passed a law with the same goal as the Sunshine Protection Act. After just one Winter, Congress eliminated it. The dark substitute to sunny afternoons are pitch-black mornings, offering a trade-off for early-morning dreariness while workers, students, and businesses start their mornings. Evidence for reduced evening traffic accidents is replaced with that for higher morning ones. The trial run in the 1970s also demonstrated little success in energy consumption savings, hindering the prospect of this act as it makes its way towards the House. 

While closer to implementation, the Sunshine Protection Act offers time zone stability and longer days, but it will take a continued bipartisan effort, currently absent in the House, to succeed. As many prefer the status quo of the current clock adjustments, another opposition seeks the permanence of Standard Time. If 2023 brings about a new time system, it will undoubtedly be an exciting experiment—still, as citizens know, Congress isn’t always all sunshine. 

Emily Howell
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