Early sunsets got you down? A Quincy lawmaker has a cure for those wintertime blues.
Yes, it’s about time again — time to debate the merits of daylight saving time.
State Senator John Keenan’s staff is putting the finishing touches on a bill that would keep Massachusetts in Atlantic Standard Time year-round, rather than falling back to Eastern Standard Time every November and springing forward every March. Keenan expects to file the bill in January, soon after the new legislative session begins.
The bill would move Massachusetts toward a new time zone only if three other New England states — Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island — agree to go along.
This would mark the first time, at least in recent memory, that state lawmakers here weigh a bill that would essentially keep us on our daylight saving time for the entire year.
But it won’t be the first time the issue has come up. The Legislature’s 2016 economic development law included a requirement that a task force be set up to study the merits of switching time zones.
Until that point, few people on Beacon Hill or in the local business community took the idea seriously. Initially, the idea came from a constituent, not from a lawmaker. Keenan filed the time-zone commission bill on Quincy resident Tom Emswiler’s behalf. Most citizens’ petitions never see the light of day. But the Senate leadership thought the idea merited further study, and tucked it into the economic development package that Governor Charlie Baker signed two years ago.
Then-senator Eileen Donoghue led the commission, which deliberated in 2017. Here’s what the task force members found: The benefits of going to Atlantic Standard Time would outweigh the downsides — if most nearby states went along.
Keenan’s bill essentially picks up from where Donoghue’s team left off. (Donoghue left the State House in April to be Lowell’s city manager.)
Who would be the winners? Merchants and restaurateurs top the list: More people would probably shop and eat out if after-work daylight lasts longer in the colder months. Street crime could drop. The shift could produce energy savings. Eliminating that lost hour of sleep every March is expected to curb workplace injuries and traffic accidents.
Not everyone would be thrilled, of course. Time differences could cause confusion at airports. Broadcasters complain about the disruption that would occur between mid-November and mid-March, if evening news shows and pro sports games are out of sync with New York.
Perhaps the biggest downside: more morning walks in the dark for kids. In recognition of that issue, Keenan’s bill would require that a state commission be established to study later start times for schools.
Then there are the feds. A time zone shift would also need the US Department of Transportation’s blessing.
Don’t go resetting your clocks just yet. Keenan’s bill has a long way to go. It still needs a champion in the House, and it’s unclear how the top leaders in both chambers will react.
Atlantic time-zone bills have been discussed and debated by legislatures in neighboring states to varying degrees. None made it to the finish line. But that could change if Massachusetts ends up taking the lead.
Some more on the subject:
■ Jeff Jacoby: The anachronism that is Daylight Saving Time
■ Analysis: Proof that daylight saving time is dumb, dangerous, costly
■ Mixed response from retailers on changing state’s time zone
■ STAT: Can switching to daylight saving time kill you?
Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.