Monday, November 5, 2018

California Referendum Puts Voters In Control Of Time

While much of the country will be watching the results of the House and Senate battles tomorrow night, some Americans will be closely eyeing a race that could split the country on a topic that can be even more divisive than support for Donald Trump. For Americans who abhor the dreaded ritual of springing forward and falling back, California voters may lead the way with a rebellion against the biannual resetting of the clocks.

California is the king of voter referendums. Many of the ballot measures that the state’s voters consider range from strange wastes of time to the absurd. In the past, the state’s voters have been asked to weigh in on such proposals as making politicians wear NASCAR-style corporate logos, legalizing “the possession, importation and transportation of pet ferrets,” and summarily executing homosexuals. Incidentally, the “Sodomite Suppression Act” was ruled “patently unconstitutional” by a California judge before it made it to the ballot.

Now, however, California may have stumbled onto something big. To paraphrase Charles Dudley Warner, who was famously quoted by Mark Twain, “Everybody complains about Daylight Saving Time, but nobody does anything about it.”

Well, by cracky, Californians are doing something about it! A referendum that will be presented to California voters this Tuesday proposes that the state institute permanent Daylight Saving Time and eliminate the twice-yearly clock-resetting ritual.

Can I get an amen?

Supporters of the measure cite medical studies that “show that the risk of heart attacks and strokes increases during the days following a time change” and claim “changing clocks twice a year increases our use of electricity by four percent, increases the amount of fuel used by cars and costs $434 million.” Opponents argue that the US tried year-round Daylight-Saving Time in 1974 and “people hated getting up in the dark in the morning.” Opponents also argue that energy-savings from the measure would be unproven.

The Sacramento Bee, which helpfully points out that the proper term is “Daylight Saving Time,” not Daylight Savings Time,” notes that the effect on electricity use from the change would probably be nil. People would turn on lights later but would use their air conditioning more. The Bee also claims that the Air Transport Association estimates that synchronizing California time with the rest of the world would cost about $147 million.

If you ask me, $147 million is a small price for someone else to pay to prevent an interruption to my sleep schedule. The ATA estimate seems likely to be a one-time cost since much of the world, as well as the states of Arizona and Hawaii, already don’t celebrate the clock-resetting ritual. Likewise, if I have the choice between getting up when it’s dark and coming home to a dark afternoon, I’ll take the former.

Left unsaid is how much time and effort will be saved by not adjusting clocks. Sure, mobile phones and computers can update their own clocks, but what about all the other clocks in your house? These days nearly every appliance comes with a clock. In my kitchen alone, we have clocks on the microwave, the oven, the coffee maker, and the clock, which is mostly decorative since we have about half a dozen other ways to determine the time there if you include phones and iPads.

The clocks on our car radios alone can take upwards of a week to figure out how to reset. Until then, I experience moments of panic when I glance at the radio and suddenly think that I’m an hour late for work. Suddenly those reports about time-change induced heart attacks don’t seem so farfetched.

Aside from having to adjust our body clocks twice a year, the real problem of the time changes is that days are getting shorter as we head into winter. Benjamin Franklin, the scientific genius among the Founding Fathers, published a paper in 1784 that would have resolved this fundamental problem, proposing that an “immense sum” could be saved each year “by the economy of using sunshine instead of candles.”

Some take Franklin’s proposal to be satirical, but I believe that his idea is totally serious and sensible. It makes perfect sense to adjust our working habits to coincide with the daylight in winter. During the coldest months of the year, what better place to spend the dark hours than snug in your bed, preferably with someone you love to keep you warm? Is the economy really so dependent on dark-side-of-clock activities that we can’t afford to spend 12 hours or so under the covers?

Unfortunately for Californians, even if this eminently sensible and not-crazy-even-by-California-standards ballot measure is approved by the voters, it won’t go into effect immediately. The referendum would have to be affirmed by a two-thirds vote of the California legislature and approved by Congress. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 expanded the reach of Big Government to control even the time that we set on our own personal clocks in our individual states!

Proposition Seven is a rare case of California coming up with a sensible idea. I’ll bet that stopping the time-changes and settling on Daylight Saving Time is an issue that could unite the majority of Americans in a common cause. Hands off our clocks! It’s an idea whose time has come. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

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