by Peter Mertz
LOS ANGELES, the United States, March 12 (Xinhua) -- This past Sunday at 2 a.m., time abruptly changed for some 250 million Americans to 3 a.m. so that people can make better use of natural daylight by observing the Daylight Saving Time (DST) during the summer months.
However, this practice of setting clocks forward one hour from standard time in summer, and back again in the fall, adopted in the United States in the 1970s, may soon change again.
California, with a population of 40 million and the largest GDP for any state in the country, is taking the lead in a movement to make DST permanent throughout the year.
"Let there be light," said Glenn Nemhauser, a San Francisco-based investor on Monday, referring to a vote expected soon by California legislators to make DST permanent, after about 60 percent of California voters agreed last November to abolish the change and make DST permanent.
Similar legislation swept through Florida in 2018. "It is the intent of the legislature that daylight saving time shall be the year-round standard time in the entire state," said the bill.
In line with the wider trend, a Sunshine Protection Act recently introduced by Senator Marco Rubio is expected to get the stamp from Congress, too.
The bill to make the DST permanent in California is sponsored by local Chinese American lawmaker Kansen Chu.
Chu, who was re-elected as Member of the California State Assembly with a 75 percent landslide victory last November, said the idea came from his constituents.
"I listened to them," he said.
"This is really a people's issue, and they thought we had a big problem," said Chu, 67, noting that no special interest, private or government funding was used to promote the measure -- making it rather unique.
Chu represents California's 25th Assembly District, which covers heavily populated areas in the south and east of the San Francisco Bay. Almost 50 percent the 460,000 inhabitants are of Asian descent.
Such a bill is not without controversy. An association of parents and teachers opposed making the DST permanent. "Lingering darkness in the mornings means kids at bus stops or crossing streets may be harder to see," it said.
Chu disagrees. "We are hoping to be able to increase public health and safety, and allow kids to play outdoor sports and improve their well-being," he said, citing studies that have proven the benefits of a shift to permanent DST in health, safety, and most importantly, educational outcomes.
"It's a movement we are trying to lead for other states and other countries as well," Chu added.
ACROSS THE UNITED STATES
Reports show a total of 28 states are currently considering the change, and more are waiting in the wings.
Along the West Coast, legislators in some of the states are joining the move.
On Saturday, the Washington House of Representatives voted 89 to 7 in favor of observing DST year-round.
Legislators in Oregon are holding a hearing on Tuesday to make DST permanent by 2021, contingent on approval from voters in this November's general election.
The movements at the state level still depend on a green light from Capitol Hill, where Rubio has recently introduced the Sunshine Protection Act, citing studies supporting benefits of such a change.
If the bill is passed, time will be uniform across the United States.
Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, was believed to have first conceived the idea in the 18th century, but the first countries to implement the DST were the German Empire and Austria-Hungary in 1916. The Germans adopted it during World War II with the aim of increasing worker production.
In the United States, the Uniform Time Act of 1966 officially started DST in the country. The DST was first practiced in 1973 after the oil embargo to offset early morning power use during the energy crises.
Currently most of the countries in North America, Europe, South America and the Middle East observe DST.
However, the balance, even in Europe, is increasingly tilting towards permanent DST.
A survey covering 4.6 million Europeans in 50 countries showed that 84 percent of the respondents were willing to abolish the daylight savings time.
Country-by-country voting in Europe is expected to be held this year. A shift to permanent DST is possible in 2020.
In Canada, some of the states are poised to follow the American lead. British Columbia Premier John Horgan last week signaled that he is on board by sending letters to the governors of Oregon, Washington and California.
"It makes sense to me that we move in unison on this matter," Horgan said in a statement.