News Story

Spring Forward, Fall Back? Bills Would End Daylight Saving in Michigan

A pair of state lawmakers claim that daylight saving time hasn’t produced the benefits anticipated when Michigan adopted it 42 years ago, and isn’t worth the problems it causes. But any attempt to rearrange Michiganders’ time schedules has potential consequences and faces political hurdles.

The modern use of daylight saving time, the practice of advancing clocks during summer months by one hour, was proposed in New Zealand in 1895. Several countries, including the United States, adopted the idea as a way to save energy during World War I. It has been used at other times, including during the oil embargo of the 1970s when, once again, it was considered as a way to save energy. Michigan adopted the practice in 1973 and has stuck with it ever since.

In March of this year, Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, introduced House Bill 4342, to get rid of DST and place the state on Eastern Standard Time year-round. Last week Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, introduced House Bill 4986 to do the same thing. Lucido says he is open to tweaking his bill to give some Upper Peninsula counties more flexibility. (Four U.P. counties that border Wisconsin are on Central Standard Time.)

“Daylight saving time hasn’t done what it was supposed to do, which was save energy as a result of needing to have less lights on,” Lucido said. “Empirical studies have shown that it hasn’t been effective in achieving that. Meanwhile, modern computers, servers and other electric devices that people rely on — including automobile clocks — don’t always make smooth adjustments to the twice-a-year time changes.”

“There is also the physiological effect the time switches have on people,” Lucido continued. “As a business owner I’ve seen the negative impacts the time changes can have. People are tired, tardy more often, don’t function as well and even suffer ill effects immediately after the changes.”

Some players in the tourism industry oppose the change, however, arguing that losing an hour of light on summer evenings would significantly hurt their businesses.

“This would be an industry killer for golf courses,” said Kate M. Moore, executive director of the Michigan Golf Course Owners Association said. “Golf courses rely heavily on golf leagues and most leagues are primarily supported by people who work in the day. The average round takes two and a half hours and without daylight saving time, operating golf leagues would be very difficult. This legislation would jeopardize about 50 percent of those businesses’ revenues.”

Lucido and Irwin said they wouldn’t be opposed to moving in the opposite direction of what their bills would do by using daylight saving time year-round. In essence, that would be putting Michigan on Central time.

“The problem comes with having to make the twice-a-year time changes,” Lucido said. “I’m OK with switching over to the daylight saving time hours all of the time. The issue is about making it consistent — it’s the changing that causes the problems.”

Irwin concurred.

“There are a lot of people who support making a change,” Irwin said. “It is well-documented that road and workplace accidents increase following the spring time switch and making that change each year actually has negative health impacts, including an increase in heart attacks.”

“But if the problem is a negative effect on the tourism industry, then, yes we could just change over to having the same hours we now have with daylight saving time all year,” Irwin continued. “The problems come when we have to keep changing the clocks. It’s a question of getting on one schedule and staying on it.”

Lucido also said, if possible, he’d like to see a time change take place in a manner that would allow polls to close throughout the state at the same time on election nights. In the four counties that are on Central time, polls in those counties close an hour later than the others in Michigan.

Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, represents the four counties that are currently on Central time. “The people I’ve talked with in my district have basically said leave it alone,” he said.

Casperson also pointed to the tourism industry’s concerns and added some additional ones.

“I seem to recall there being issues about kids having to go to school in the morning when it would still be dark out if we stayed on the daylight saving time schedule all year long,” Casperson said.

Irwin said he doesn’t believe that requiring children to go to school in darkness is an insurmountable issue.

“Look, it’s always cold and dark on winter mornings regardless of what we do,” Irwin said. “If that was the only obstacle I believe we could find ways to make accommodations to avoid the problem.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.