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A beautiful December sunrise breaks over the ice on Mille Lacs Lake. Steve Hoffman / Forum News Service

Spring ahead, fall back or just forget it? Minnesota lawmakers would ditch daylight saving time

ST. PAUL — Two days after all of us lost an hour of our lives, Minnesota lawmakers Tuesday, March 12, took the first step toward ending the practice of changing our clocks twice a year.

On Tuesday, a Senate committee overwhelmingly supported a bill that would make Minnesota follow only one time regimen all year.

There’s bipartisan support for the idea, which reflects a perennial crankiness with our current system here and nationally, but it’s hard to tell if it will become law.

So, the big question: Which time would we follow? Standard time. The one that just ended. Now let the arguments really start.

Why change the law?

The arguments for changing the way we do things — aside from that it’s just a pain — is primarily health and safety.

Changing the clocks, especially the “spring forward” where all but the highly disciplined lose an house of sleep, is the really bad one, according to state Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, a Republican from Big Lake who is leading the charge in the Senate.

“It’s not just an innocuous gain-an-hour, lose-an-hour,” Kiffmeyer told her colleagues before listing numerous studies that have shown a correlation between sleep-deprivation-related problems and changing the clocks. Among them:

  • Workplace injuries spike in frequency and severity, including a 5.7 percent increase in mining injuries on the Monday of spring forward.
  • There’s a “significant increase” in fatal car vehicle crashes around both spring forward and fall back.
  • More people have strokes around the changing of the clocks, including a 25 percent increase in strokes in cancer patients.
  • “Cyberloafing” and other plunges in worker productivity associated with sleep loss appear to increase when the time changes.

Which time would we follow?

Let’s define the terms first.

Daylight saving time is the warm one. This year, it began at 2 a.m. Sunday, March 10, and it’ll end at 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 3. And yes, it’s saving, singular. That’s because the idea behind it is that you’re saving daylight, making better use of it by chronomating the day so that all that extra light happens into the evening, when we’re already awake. With the spring forward, the sun would rise around 4:30 a.m. in the summer in the Twin Cities.

Standard time is the dark one. In northern latitudes such as ours, one of the benefits of standard time in the dark of winter is that groggy folks are less likely to drive to work on icy roads in the dark, and children waiting for the school bus are more visible. But, as we all know, there’s nothing quite like leaving work early to do holiday shopping and still finding it dark as night outside.

“It seems like more people like daylight saving time,” said Rep. Mike Frieberg, DFL-Golden Valley, the lead sponsor of the House version. “But that’s just based on who’s been calling me. I don’t think you’re going to be able to make everyone happy.”

At the moment, Minnesota doesn’t really have a choice. We can either do what we’re doing, or go to standard time all year. That’s because there’s a federal law that says those are our options. However, there’s a proposal in Congress to change that as well.

The way Kiffmeyer’s and Frieberg’s bills are written, in March of 2020, we’d skip the “spring forward” and stay on standard time (which is known in federal law as “the federal standard time”).

However, the bill also says that if the federal law changes, and we can go to daylight saving time (which is known in federal law as “advanced standard time”), then we will.

So there would still be plenty of chances to change our clocks until it all got sorted out.

Walz does 'deep dive'

It’s unclear whether this will become law. It faces some procedural hurdles, and it’s possible it could get cast aside as lawmakers scramble to meet approaching legislative deadlines. Frieberg said that while there’s bipartisan support, there’s also bipartisan opposition, including by those who like those long summer nights too much to give them up.

Gov. Tim Walz said he’s thought about the issue this week like everyone else, but he hasn’t made up his mind.

“I’m open to a conversation on that,” Walz said. “My 12-year-old brought it up the other day and we kind of had a deep dive and he Googled some things or whatever. I think there’s actually a valid argument around getting rid of it. I’m not taking a position on it yet, but I know it’s starting to get churned back up again.”

St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter Ryan Faircloth contributed to this report.

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