Updated Mar 31, 2018

Florida wants a time zone to itself for half the year

A flock of Black Skimmers fly at sunset at Everglades National Park, Photo: DeAgostini / Getty

In a rare feat, Florida signed time zone legislation this month that would recognize daylight saving time (more sunlight in the evenings, less in the mornings) throughout the year. Such a change would have an unusual effect: for half of the year, the state would be an hour ahead of the rest of the east coast and in its entirely own time zone from the rest of the country.

Bottom line: States are currently free to observe standard time throughout the year (Hawaii and Arizona do). But theres a catch; For the Florida law to go into effect, Congress would need allow states the autonomy to recognize daylight saving time year round. It does not appear likely to do so.

The case for more evening sunlight

Florida hasn't been alone in wanting more PM daylight between November and March. New England states, with their early winter sunsets, have pushed for permanent daylight saving time and even a shift ahead to Atlantic Standard Time. The advantages:

  • Businesses get a boost, as more commercial and recreational activity happens in the evening than the early morning.
  • Earlier sunsets contribute to winter depression.
  • It's safer because there's more daylight during a more heavily trafficked time of day.
The other side
  • State-specific time zones create regional headaches. This could get particularly onerous in the Northeast, where it's common to cross state lines on the daily commute.
  • A separate time zone puts a state out of sync with the rest of the country. TV schedules get thrown off, and start times for national sports and entertainment events must be accommodated.
  • Aggrieved parties include early risers, such as farmers, who must tend to the fields ahead of the sunrise.
Where things stand

Each year, statehouses draft dozens of bills in an effort to legislate the clock. Florida's Sunshine Protection Act is a rare case of a bill getting passed and signed. But that was only half the battle in establishing this policy. Now Congress must act.

Marco Rubio proposed bills in the Senate, both to allow Florida to permanently recognize daylight saving time and make the whole country do so. According to the Sun-Sentinel, he said this week that lawmakers haven't gotten behind the bill along any sort of ideological lines.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce is not optimistic: "Here’s the key takeaway: despite all the rhetoric, changes are not imminent and are, in fact, very unlikely to occur anytime soon."

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