With little debate, a bill to end California’s observance of daylight saving time cleared its first committee on Monday.
Assembly Bill 385 could make California the third state not to observe daylight saving time, in addition to Hawaii and Arizona. If approved by a two-thirds majority of both houses of the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, it would put a measure on the ballot asking voters whether or not the state should eliminate the practice.
Citing research that discounts any energy savings – more daylight can mean more air conditioning use, for example – as well as studies finding upticks in vehicle and workplace accidents after clocks shift, Assemblyman Kansen Chu, D-San Jose, said it’s time to let voters rethink a policy adopted during the Truman administration.
“Daylight saving time is an institution that has been in place largely without a question for more than half a century,” Chu said. “I think we owe it to the general public to be given the opportunity to decide for themselves whether or not daylight saving time ought to be continued.”
That logic seemed to puzzle Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, who voted against the bill.
“As someone who counts down the days to daylight saving time,” she said, “I was a little surprised when I saw your bill.”
Following temporary national periods of adherence during the first and second world wars, California voters adopted daylight saving time through Proposition 12 in 1949. Proponents argued that altered summertime hours would bolster “public health and industrial efficiency” by improving worker safety, reducing juvenile delinquency and car crashes, saving water, and assisting poultry production and fruit growers.
The schedule was formalized by the federal government in the 1960s, and most recently extended in 2007 to last from late March until the beginning of November.
Debating the purpose and utility of daylight saving time has become as much of a biannual tradition as the changing of the clocks. The public often complains of a physical and mental toll that can last for days, though public health experts note that studies show increased physical activity under daylight saving time because of the extra hour of light at the end of the day.
The alternate option of keeping California on daylight saving time year-round would require federal permission. A resolution asking Congress to allow that change also passed the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee on Monday.
Jeremy B. White of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this story.