On a crowded California ballot with a gas tax, caged chickens, rent control and more fighting for voters’ attention, one quiet proposition that sought to pave the way for permanent daylight saving time easily sailed to victory Tuesday.
With nearly all precincts counted, about 60 percent of Californians came out in favor of Prop 7, an effort by state Rep. Kansen Chu of San Jose to make daylight saving time a year-round fixture in the Golden State.
But if those voters thought they were once and for all ridding themselves of the semiannual nuisance of changing their clocks, they’re in for a rude awakening. Here’s why.
Its passage just allows the state Legislature to vote on it.
Prop 7 merely allows California’s state Legislature to take a vote on the issue. If it does so, the shift to daylight saving time will only be approved with two-thirds voting in favor.
State lawmakers who support it, such as Chu and Rep. Lorena Gonzalez, point to studies that have found that time changes increase energy consumption and disrupt sleep patterns, thus leading to higher rates of heart attacks and strokes in vulnerable populations.
Those who are against it ― such as Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, who wrote the opposition argument for the ballot ― say changing California’s time system would be a massive disruption, put the state out of sync with its neighbors and make for an overall unpleasant experience.
“We now have Daylight Saving Time in the summer so we can have extra light in the evening, when we can enjoy it, rather than having that daylight between 5 and 6 in the morning when we’d prefer it were dark,” Jackson explained. “And then in the winter we switch back to Standard Time so it’s not so dark in the morning.”
Despite the arguments on both sides, no one raised any money for or against Prop 7, so it’s unclear how likely the Legislature is to ever take up the issue.
Even then, permanent daylight saving time is unlikely to happen any time soon.
Thanks to the Uniform Time Act passed by U.S. Congress in 1966, states that observe daylight saving time must have it “begin and end on federally mandated dates.” Therefore, California can’t set an end date that doesn’t exist.
So even with Prop 7 passing, and even if two-thirds of California state lawmakers support permanent daylight saving time, nothing will change unless there’s a federal move to end the Uniform Time Act or exempt California.
There’s no indication that’s going to happen. Just take a look at how it shook out in Florida, where the passage of the “Sunshine Protection Act” this past summer meant nothing. Sen. Marco Rubio filed two bills that would allow the change to happen, but Congress took no action on them.
The time changed in Florida this past Sunday just like it did in most of the country.
But why don’t Hawaii and Arizona have to observe the time change?
Daylight saving time is not observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands. They can get away with that because they went the opposite route of Chu’s proposal.
While the Uniform Time Act stipulates how states may use daylight saving time, it does allow them to opt out of it. In other words, Hawaii and Arizona chose not to have daylight saving time at all.
Chu did try the opt-out route originally, which would have put California on permanent standard time, but he switched it up after he got pushback from youth sports leagues that said they would no longer be able to hold evening practices and games.