After hours of divisive debate over guns, schools and freedom, the Florida Senate spent less than a minute Tuesday and voted on something they all could agree on: daylight.
The Senate voted 33-2 to send a bill to Gov. Rick Scott to ask the U.S. Congress to decide whether Florida should be a state that enjoys daylight saving time year-round. It was passed by the House on Feb. 14, 103-11.
Under the plan, HB 1013, called the “Sunshine Protection Act,” the state would ask Congress to pass a law to let the Sunshine State move from standard time to daylight saving time (when you set your clocks ahead one hour) year-round. Daylight time runs from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November and is set to start this Sunday, March 11, and end Nov. 4.
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If approved, Florida would join two other states that have exempted themselves from the 1966 law that set a uniform time for all time zones across the country. Hawaii and most of Arizona are on standard time year-round.
Under federal law, the U.S. Department of Transportation is charged with setting time zones but allows states to exempt themselves from daylight saving time, if Congress approves. The practical impact of that change would mean that on the winter solstice — that’s the day in the Northern Hemisphere with the least amount of daylight — sunrise in Florida would be at about 8 a.m. and sunset would be at about 6:30 p.m. instead of 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. like it is now.
Senate sponsor Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, has said he got the idea after walking into his local barbershop last fall, shortly after the clocks changed from daylight saving to standard time.
“One of the barbers had young children and it had such a negative impact every time they set their clocks back [that they had trouble] getting their kids up for school,” he told the Senate Community Affairs Committee meeting last month.
So he filed the bill and the idea has “turned into something I’ve never seen happen,” he said. Informal polls Steube and others have conducted show enormous public support for the idea, he said.
“I’ve heard from mayors across the state that it’s going to save them money because they don’t have to light their softball fields at night,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me who have said even my high school age kid, it’s hard to get him up in the morning when we fall back the clocks.”
People in the tourism industry also complained that as the days got darker in standard time. “They can’t keep their shops open,” he said.
Reps. Jeannette Nunez, R-Miami, sponsor of the House version of the bill predicted that the time change would boost the economy, save energy, improve road and public safety, and reduce crime due to the fact there is more sunlight in the evening hours.
Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, another House sponsor, predicted it will improve mental health and simplify life.
“This is the first great step to putting more sunshine in our lives,” she said. “How many times have you gotten home from work in the winter time and you’d like to throw the football, dip a line in, or go out to dinner with your spouse? This will give people the opportunity to have more quality time when its nicest in Florida.”