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‘Spring forward’ forever? NC lawmakers propose permanent Daylight Saving Time

April 11, 2019

Tired of changing your clocks twice a year? A new bill in the state House would eliminate that pesky task for good.

House Bill 350, which passed the House State and Local Government committee Wednesday morning, would ask Congress to authorize North Carolina to stay on Daylight Saving Time all year long.

“In short, North Carolina would remain spring forward forever,” explained bill sponsor Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, adding that it’s the most popular bill he’s ever filed.

Researchers, Saine told the committee, have documented “significant health effects due to the time changes,” including higher rates of heart attacks, car accidents, workplace injuries and depression in the days and weeks after a clock change.

“A study by Rutgers University of traffic accidents suggests a move to permanent DST would save approximately 343 lives a year,” he said.

Saine said the idea grew out of a discussion at legislative conference. Lawmakers from several states agreed to file similar bills this year, including South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, California and Washington. It was also introduced at the federal level by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

“Nobody wanted to be the first,” Saine told the committee.

It’s not the first time such an idea has been proposed. Daylight Saving Time was originally used during World Wars I and II to save energy by extending light later into the evening. In 1966, it was enacted nationwide for half the year.

In 1974, during the depths of the energy crisis, President Richard Nixon ordered the nation to observe DST for the entire year. In some towns at the western edge of time zones, sunrise in the winter didn’t arrive till 8:30 AM. That led to problems for children waiting for school buses, and the change was reversed before the year was out.

Rep. John Ager, D-Mecklenburg, recalled that year as he asked Saine why he didn’t proposed a change to permanent Eastern Standard Time instead. Saine replied that he likes DST better.

Rep. Charles Graham, D-Robeson, suggested adding a voter referendum to the bill. But Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, said regional consistency, not voter preference, should drive the decision.

The bill goes next to the House Rules committee before getting a floor vote.