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Think daylight saving time should be year-round? Ed Markey, other senators do, too

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey waved as he arrived at a rally at Everett Mills in Lawrence in February 2019.
Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey waved as he arrived at a rally at Everett Mills in Lawrence in February 2019.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

If you think the extra hour of sunlight in the evenings when the clocks spring forward in March should be a permanent fixture year-round — rather than just lasting for eight months — you’re not alone.

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and a bipartisan group of his colleagues in the Senate are looking to do just that by reintroducing legislation that would make daylight saving time, which begins this Sunday, permanent nationwide.

The Malden Democrat is a cosponsor of the bill, titled the “Sunshine Protection Act,” along with a group that includes Republican Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, also is a cosponsor.

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This marks the fourth time that Rubio has pushed for Congress to pass the measure — it was first introduced in the 2017-2018 session — that would eliminate the need to turn the clocks back and forth twice every year. It follows the Florida state Legislature’s passing of a similar bill, signed by then-Governor Rick Scott, in 2018.

“The call to end the antiquated practice of clock changing is gaining momentum throughout the nation,” Rubio said in a statement. “Studies have shown many benefits of a year-round Daylight Saving Time, which is why the Florida legislature voted to make it permanent in 2018. I’m proud to reintroduce this bipartisan bill to make Daylight Saving Time permanent, and give our nation’s families more stability throughout the year.”

Daylight saving time begins on the second Sunday of March each year, lasting until the first Sunday of November when the clocks are turned back to standard time. In New England, that means the sun sets as early as 4:30 p.m. for a portion of the winter.

But in order for Florida’s enactment of permanent daylight saving time to apply, a change in the federal statute is required.

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Fifteen states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, have either enacted legislation or passed a resolution “to provide for year-round daylight saving time, if Congress were to allow such a change, and in some cases, if surrounding states enact the same legislation.”

Such states include Maine, Oregon, Arkansas, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Utah.

State legislators in Massachusetts proposed a bill that would permanently keep the state in daylight saving time. But the measure languished in the Legislature this past fall in large part due to efforts to first address the coronavirus pandemic.

Full-time daylight saving time, however, is currently not allowed by federal law, hence the proposal by Rubio, Markey, and others to get Congress to act. If passed, the legislation would apply to all states that currently participate in daylight saving time.

Markey, along with several other senators sponsoring the bill, cited the “cold and dark” winter brought on by the pandemic — during which many Americans have had to remain indoors, without much contact with friends and family — as a motivating factor to push to extend the amount of sunshine people are able to get on a daily basis.

The Massachusetts senator coauthored a provision of the 2005 Energy Policy Act — Markey was a congressman at the time — that increased the portion of the year covered by daylight saving time by several weeks.

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“Extra sunshine in the evenings not only puts a spring in our step and offers the perfect reason to get outside, but it also positively impacts consumer spending and shifts energy consumption,” Markey said in a statement.

Those sponsoring the reintroduced “Sunshine Protection Act” cited a number of reasons backing their proposal to make daylight saving time permanent across the country — from factors including physical and mental health to the economy.

One study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 1995 found that during daylight saving time, there were fewer fatal crashes.

“An estimated 901 fewer fatal crashes (727 involving pedestrians, 174 involving vehicle occupants) might have occurred if daylight saving time had been retained year-round from 1987 through 1991,” according to the abstract.

Meanwhile, research has revealed that adverse effects on the health of individuals occur when daylight saving time ends and standard time begins as well — including reductions in sleep and increased rates of cardiac issues.

Negative changes to a person’s mood — with Seasonal Affective Disorder arising as an issue for many — also have been reported as a result of the time shift.

“Studies have found year-round Daylight Saving Time would improve public health, public safety, and mental health — especially important during this cold and dark COVID winter,” Markey said in a statement.



Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.