By KATIE STOCKDALE
Having just suffered March 11’s Daylight Saving time change, I learned something important about myself. I need the sun. I need the sun to shine in through my window and wake me up and tell my brain that it isn’t night anymore. Since losing that, I’ve been struggling to get up at 7 a.m. every morning, which has been my accustomed wake-up time since the summer.
Normally, I get up and I go on a walk, or ride my bike along Riverwalk and Bayshore. It’s just about an hour out and then I have breakfast and start my day. It’s nothing big, but I like it. It lets me listen to a podcast or think, to appreciate the bay and the nice morning. It lets me unwind. Then, after an hour, I get on with my day.
But even though I enjoy this activity so much, since the sun has started rising later, I’ve found myself struggling to rise. Since part of the fun of my mornings out is being able to actually see the scenery, waiting a half hour until the sun comes up seems like the solution. Except I’m a student; I have a schedule and I can’t have any wasted time in my day.
With all of this exposition, maybe it’s easier to see why I was furious when my mother told me about the Sunshine Protection Act, passed by the Florida Senate and signed by Governor Rick Scott. Condescending name aside, this bill would keep Florida in Daylight Saving time year-round. I get the concept behind the bill; everyone hates switching. Just days before I heard this news, I was fully in favor of getting rid of Daylight Saving time – of course, I assumed that in getting rid of the switch, we would remain in Standard time year-round, given that it’s Standard. But oh no, the Florida government has decided to stay in Daylight Saving time year-round.
This isn’t a problem now. As the days lengthen, we’re already retreating back to a more normal sunrise time of 7:20 a.m. But in the fall, when the days begin to shorten, and we don’t change the time, it means that the sun won’t be rising until 8:20 a.m. at the earliest. I’ll ignore that this will be extremely inconvenient for me, because it’s also extremely inconvenient for a ton of other people too. Think of the elementary school students trying to get their lazy bones out of bed. The memory of the struggle of trying to get out of bed in the dark to travel to school in the dark is universal.
Parents had a hard enough time of it in the spring, but now it’ll be a year-long battle. Not only will it be hard to wake them up, but parents will have to send their elementary-aged kids to walk to the bus stop, to wait at the bus stop in the dark or walk to school in the dark–crossing roads in the dark and standing on street corners in the dark. Teachers are facing even harder mornings of trying to engage students, as elementary school will be starting class in the dark. Even more people will commute in the dark, work in the dark (think about people who work outside like construction workers) and the sun won’t set until close to 9 p.m. But beyond all of these admittedly small inconveniences is the root of why I’m angry.
The Florida Senate passed this bill without putting it on a ballot. The governor signed this bill without it being on a ballot for public vote. Yes, bills are passed and created all the time without being on ballots. But this bill affects the lives of everyone in Florida very directly, and we should have had a say. We should have had the opportunity to say, “I like the idea but not the execution.” We should have been able to give a different solution.
Our government is a representative democracy, which means that we do not have a say in every little decision the government makes, on a state or national level, which is fine for the most part. If we did, the government would be even more bogged down. But the representative part of representative democracy needs to be upheld, and with this bill, it hasn’t been. I’ve heard no one happy about this bill (although I have heard a few people bewildered at my anger and apathetic to the whole thing) and that means that the Florida government isn’t doing their job. They’re not representing us.
If they’re not representing the people, who are they representing? My answer is simple and not all that surprising: the tourism industry. A staple of Florida’s economy, the tourism industry has previously complained that darker days in standard time cause shops to close earlier. It follows that the decision to lengthen the days parallels the tourism industries claims that later daylight will allow people to go after work to shops and the beach. With this logic, later daylight will also keep tourists out longer; on beaches, at restaurants, in stores, at amusement parks and spending money the whole time. I like to imagine that the representative for the tourism moguls walked in with stacks of money and told the senate that they could make even more, just pass this bill.
And maybe they’re right. Maybe a later sunset will keep people out and spending. But a later sunset means a later sunrise, which means an extra hour tourists won’t be out spending money. So really, tourists might be spending money later in the day, but they won’t be spending more. The premise of their argument is wrong as well, just look at Miami Beach, Clearwater Beach, or Disney World, all very crowded at night and making plenty of money. Worse, Florida summers are famous for terrible heat and humidity. The only escape is the night. Since Florida defies seasons, summer stretches into fall, and a longer afternoon means a hotter afternoon. Hotter afternoons are less fun, less enticing and more likely to keep tourists sung in hotel rooms, not out spending money.
Maybe if they’d brought this bill to ballot, voters would have been able to use common sense to poke holes in this Sunshine theory. Unfortunately, Floridians just have to hope that the U.S. Congress won’t pass the bill. The future doesn’t look bright.
Katie Stockdale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org