By Bob Katzen
The special legislative commission charged with studying the practical, economic, fiscal and health-related impacts of the state remaining on Daylight Saving Time (DST) throughout the calendar year held its second meeting last week. Currently, the Bay State switches to DST when we push the clocks ahead during the period of the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November. That move shifts an hour of available daylight from the morning to the evening each day in the spring, and back to the morning in the fall.
Supporters of permanent DST say that it delivers more sunlight in the evening after work and school when people can enjoy it, rather than during the morning rush. They argue that studies show it helps businesses, saves energy and improves physical and mental health.
University of Virginia professor Jennifer Doleac, the author of the study “Under the Cover of Darkness: How Ambient Light Influences Criminal Activity,” testified by teleconference. She said that adding an extra hour of daylight to the end of the day leads to less street crime in the evening hours without a corresponding rise in morning crime.
Peter Shattuck, Director of Clean Energy at the Acadia Center, testified that permanently adopting DST could slightly reduce electricity consumption.
Opponents question the energy savings and say that studies have shown that DST increases risk of a heart attack. Some farmers say the practice leaves them with an hour less sunlight to get crops to market and tampers with the milking schedules of cows which often do not adapt easily to a sudden shift. Many parents and schools oppose DST because it makes sunrise times much later and results in children being out on dark streets on their way to school.
“I’d rather [err on the side of] caution for the kids than take a chance and all of a sudden we’re experimenting and kids are getting hurt,” said Rep. Paul Frost (R-Auburn).
Retailers Association of Massachusetts President Jon Hurst revealed the results of a survey of his members on their preferences. The survey showed that 34 percent of retailers support the idea of switching to EDT year-round; 24 percent favor switching to Standard Time year-round and 19 percent support staying with the current system.
The commission has not yet scheduled its next meeting, but expects it to be April 10 or 11. All meetings are open to the public. You can find out the date of the exact next hearing or offer your opinion via e-mail to the committee’s chair Sen. Eileen Donoghue at firstname.lastname@example.org or by regular mail at: State House, Room 112, Boston, MA 02133.