Florida has always been special. It is a large and diverse state, known for its sunny beaches, fractious politics and colorful characters. And now, for once, Floridians appear to be united.
This week, an overwhelming, bipartisan majority of the state’s legislators voted in favor of the well-named Sunshine Protection Act. It aims to put Florida on permanent daylight saving time (DST) by setting its clocks forward one spring and never having them fall back. Still, even if governor Rick Scott signs the bill, the state alone does not have the authority to put Florida on its own time.
There was a time US municipalities could choose whether or not to observe daylight saving. Then, as technology integrated different local economies, differing time changes and zones caused chaos and confusion. In 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which required whole states to fully commit to daylight saving.
States have the option of opting out, so long as the whole state stays on the same time. Arizona and Hawaii, for instance, don’t observe daylight saving. Florida is doing something different, in wishing to be on DST permanently, which requires congressional approval.
Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts are also considering a time change, moving forward one hour from Eastern to Atlantic Time. With such a switch, states on the east coast could be in three different time zones determined by latitude, instead of longitude, the way time zones are normally determined. The continental US could, during some times during the year, contain six different time zones.
The justification for all of these proposed changes is more daylight. There’s speculation the tourist economy in Florida would benefit from longer, sunny days under permanent DST. The New England proposal hopes to relieve Maine from its darkest winter days.
Still, the economics of these plans are dubious. In the modern economy, we are more connected than ever before. Adding more time zones and differences would create confusion—and waste time. Imagine organizing a conference call that includes Maine and Florida on different clocks.
The benefits of changing our clocks twice a year are also less compelling. Work is becoming more flexible and people increasingly set their own schedules. We even watch TV shows, once a big determinant of the time we kept, on our own time. We are no longer slaves to the official time, so why change it? Time is becoming simply a marker of ways to coordinate and plan. Adding more time zones just makes modern life harder.
Getting rid of time changes altogether is a good idea because they make it harder to coordinate. This weekend’s US daylight-saving change at 2am on Sunday, March 11 should be our last.
The US needs fewer time zones, not more, and that requires a nationally coordinated time change—and not leaving it to states in any way.