Florida lawmakers in the Sunshine State want to legislate more working, learning and playing time in the sunshine.
Two bills, called the "Sunshine Protection Act," would ask Congress to give the state permission to make Daylight Saving Time permanent year-round. The proposals, SB 858 and HB 1013, each passed their first Senate and House committees unanimously this week.
If Congress agrees, 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 Times, if Congress approves. Daylight Saving Time (when you set your clocks ahead one hour) runs from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.
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.
The Senate version of the bill also moves the western part of the state, which is in Central Time, into the Eastern Time zone, if Congress approves.
Senate sponsor Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, 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 on Tuesday.
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 shown 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.
Sponsors of the House measure are Reps. Jeannette Nunez, R-Miami, and Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers.
"Studies have found that observing Daylight Saving Times year-round 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," she told the House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Wednesday.
Fitzenhagen 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."
This isn't the first time the idea has been proposed. Rep. Mark Danish, a Tampa Democrat, filed a bill to make Daylight Saving Time year round in 2014, but the measure never got a hearing. In 2008, former Sen. Bill Posey proposed legislation to abolish daylight time in the state and keep standard time year round.