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Effort to roll back daylight saving time defeated in California Senate

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Learn why we change clocks twice a year in this brief history of Daylight Saving Time.

Californians may not get to weigh in on daylight saving time after all.

The state Senate on Tuesday rejected Assembly Bill 385, which would have placed a measure on the ballot asking voters to dump the twice-annual changing of the clocks and keep California on standard time year-round. Only 17 members voted for the bill, four short of what it needed to advance.

Announced in February by Assemblyman Kansen Chu, D-San Jose, AB 385 became an instant cause célèbre among anti-daylight saving time partisans, who regard it as not only an irritant but a danger. Research suggests the risk of heart attacks, car crashes and workplace accidents rises in the days immediately after a time shift.

Yet logistical concerns about changing daylight saving time, which was instituted by voters in 1949 and would require another initiative to reverse, as well as emotional connections to the long-standing practice, ultimately won out in the Senate.

“I like daylight saving. I just like it,” said Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres.

Unlike most contentious votes, which generally split along partisan lines, there was no rhyme or reason – not political affiliation or geography, age or gender – that seemed to explain the deep division. Eleven Democrats and six Republicans voted for the bill, while 10 Democrats and seven Republicans opposed it.

Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, defended daylight saving time on behalf of farmers, whom he said benefit from the later sunset during summer and fall harvests.

“Our crops have gotten accustomed to that. They’ve in fact been bred to deal with that longer harvest season,” he said. “Don’t fix something that’s not broken.”

Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula, argued that getting rid of the yearly spring forward could hurt California’s extensive tourism industry, while Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, lamented that it could throw businesses even further out of sync with counterparts on the East Coast.

Leno added that California should not join the minority of states – only Arizona and Hawaii – who do not observe daylight saving time, and that any fix should happen at the federal level.

“I think there’s some real unintended consequences here,” he said.

Minutes later, the Assembly passed a resolution urging Congress to allow states to adopt daylight saving time year-round. That resolution cleared the Senate near-unanimously last week.

Only Sen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado Hills, who was carrying AB 385 for Chu, rose up to offer a defense of the bill, which he said would offer “the clarity of not having to switch back and forth.”

Seemingly baffled by the opposition, Gaines remarked that it was “the most controversial bill I’ve ever jockeyed.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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