Because It's Friday

Vermont’s evolving relationship with Daylight Saving Time

by Timothy Page

Sunday, November 5 approaches, and Vermonters of all stripes prepare to turn back their clocks once more. Daylight saving time (DST) has become a familiar practice in many parts of the world, including the United States. Vermont, a state known for its rich history and progressive values, has its own unique story when it comes to the adoption of DST. Understanding the historical context behind Vermont’s implementation of daylight saving time provides insights into the factors that influenced the state’s decision-making process. It also highlights the ever-changing nature of what is declared “Progressive” in this mercurial land. Let’s take a journey through time to explore the fascinating history of Vermont’s adoption of daylight saving time.

Early Challenges and Opposition

The concept of daylight saving time was first proposed in the late 19th century as a means to optimize daylight usage and conserve energy. However, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that the idea gained traction. In 1918, during World War I, the United States implemented daylight saving time as a temporary measure to conserve resources for the war effort. Vermont, like many other states, reluctantly adopted DST during this period.

However, the initial experience with daylight saving time in Vermont was met with mixed reactions. Some residents and businesses found adjusting to the time change challenging, as it disrupted established routines and caused confusion. There was also opposition from farmers, who relied heavily on the natural daylight cycle for their agricultural activities. As a result, Vermont repealed DST after the war ended in 1919.

A Patchwork of Local Observance

Throughout the following decades, daylight saving time remained a patchwork of local observance across the United States. In Vermont, some towns and cities independently decided to adopt DST, while others continued to adhere to standard time throughout the year. This lack of statewide uniformity created logistical challenges for businesses, transportation, and scheduling for residents and visitors.

Efforts for Statewide Consistency

In the 1960s, recognizing the need for statewide consistency, Vermont made efforts to establish a unified approach to daylight saving time. In 1965, the Vermont General Assembly passed a bill to adopt DST statewide. However, the legislation faced strong opposition and was eventually repealed in 1967. The push for statewide adoption continued in subsequent years, with multiple bills introduced and debated in the legislature.

Finally, in 2005, after decades of deliberation, Vermont passed a law to adopt daylight saving time. The legislation aimed to align the state with neighboring regions and address the challenges arising from the lack of synchronization. Vermonters welcomed the change, recognizing the potential benefits in terms of economic coordination, energy conservation, and improved connectivity with neighboring states.

Current Implementation and Impact

Since the adoption of daylight saving time, Vermont has been following the practice of advancing the clocks by one hour in the spring and reverting to standard time in the fall, in line with the majority of the northeastern states. This alignment has facilitated smoother coordination in various aspects of daily life, including transportation, commerce, and scheduling. The longer evenings during DST have also provided opportunities for outdoor activities and boosted tourism in the state.

Vermont’s adoption of daylight saving time has been a journey marked by challenges, debates, and evolving perspectives. From initial resistance and local variations to the eventual recognition of the importance of statewide consistency, Vermont’s history with DST reflects the state’s commitment to progress and adaptability. By embracing daylight saving time, Vermont has enhanced connectivity with neighboring states, improved economic coordination, and contributed to energy conservation. As the state moves forward, the historical context of Vermont’s adoption of DST serves as a reminder of the ongoing quest for efficiency and the evolving needs of its residents.

Currently, there is a new movement to do away with DST within the Statehouse. Rep. Seth Chase (D-Chittenden-20) introduced a bill for the consideration of the House General and Housing Committee on Feb. 22, 2023 to establish a year-round Eastern Standard Time DST. Bill H.329 would have made it so that as of July 1st all of Vermont would have permanently set their clocks to:

‘one hour ahead of the mean astronomical time of 75° of longitude west from Greenwich, known and designated as “U.S. Eastern Standard Time,.”This time may be designated as U.S. Eastern Daylight Saving Time.’

The bill stalled out at this point and was not pursued by the Committee to date.

Rationale for abolishing DSL

There are several compelling reasons for abolishing daylight savings. First and foremost, the practice of changing the clocks twice a year disrupts our natural sleep patterns and circadian rhythms. The sudden shift in time can lead to sleep disturbances, fatigue, and decreased productivity, as our bodies struggle to adjust to the new schedule. Studies have shown that the abrupt time change can also have negative effects on our health, including an increase in heart attacks, strokes, and road accidents due to sleep deprivation and disrupted body clocks.

Additionally, the original rationale behind implementing DST, which was to conserve energy, is no longer as relevant in today’s society. While it was initially believed that adjusting the clocks would reduce electricity usage by extending daylight hours in the evening, modern research has shown inconsistent and minimal energy savings. Furthermore, with advancements in technology and energy efficiency, the impact of DST on energy consumption has become negligible.

Moreover, daylight saving time can cause confusion and inconvenience across various sectors. It disrupts international business and travel schedules, affecting coordination and communication between different countries and time zones. It also poses challenges for the transportation industry, as schedules and timetables need to be adjusted to accommodate the time change. Additionally, the time shift can be particularly disruptive for parents with young children, as it often disrupts established sleep routines and can lead to difficulties in adjusting their kids’ schedules.

In light of these factors, many argue that abolishing daylight saving time would provide numerous benefits, such as improved health and well-being, increased productivity, reduced accident rates, and simplified scheduling and coordination across various sectors. By maintaining a consistent time throughout the year, we can avoid the unnecessary disruptions and complications associated with changing the clocks, while allowing individuals to maintain a more stable and natural sleep pattern.

US Congress and state-level decisions

It should be also noted that anything which the State decides depends on allowance from the United States Congress. While Congress allows individual states to opt out of observing DST or make adjustments to the time change within their respective jurisdictions, it ultimately has the power to establish the standard time zones and the overall framework for DST. This flexibility is granted through the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which empowers states to pass legislation opting out of DST or adopting it year-round. However, any changes made by states require approval from Congress. State legislatures can propose and pass bills to modify their DST practices, but they must receive congressional authorization to implement those changes. Therefore, the decisions made by Congress regarding state DST exemptions or modifications ultimately shape the landscape of daylight saving time across the country, allowing for a combination of uniformity and state-level autonomy.

Several states in the United States have made attempts to deviate from the uniform timekeeping system of daylight saving time (DST). Here are four examples, including a couple of times that it actually worked.

Arizona: Arizona is perhaps the most well-known state that does not observe daylight saving time. In 1968, the state legislature decided to exempt Arizona from DST due to concerns about energy consumption in the hot desert climate. As a result, Arizona remains on Mountain Standard Time (MST) throughout the year.

Hawaii: Hawaii is another state that does not observe daylight saving time. The state’s location near the equator allows for relatively consistent daylight hours throughout the year, reducing the need for DST adjustments. Hawaii remains on Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time (HST) all year round.

Florida: In recent years, Florida has made efforts to deviate from the uniform timekeeping system by passing legislation to establish year-round daylight saving time. In 2018, the state passed the “Sunshine Protection Act,” which aimed to keep Florida on DST throughout the year. However, since federal law requires congressional approval for such changes, the state’s proposal has not been implemented.

California: California has also explored the idea of deviating from the uniform timekeeping system. In 2018, the state legislature passed a bill called the “California Daylight Saving Time Act” to establish year-round daylight saving time. However, similar to Florida, California would require congressional approval to implement this change.

Vermont’s vacillating policies with regard to Daylight Saving Time, and with the Federal Government in general, are as ingrained in the State’s character as much as dairy and maple syrup. Vermont’s independent spirit flows through its veins, steadfast and unyielding, like the rivers that carve its landscapes. It is a state where self-reliance and community interweave, where the pursuit of individual freedom somehow finds a measure of harmony amidst diverse collective values. In the Green Mountain State, independence is not just a concept; it is a way of life, a testament to the resilience and unwavering spirit of its people. This proud Yankee land is surely not one to make up its mind easily, or for long, but that independence of thought is one of the things that make it so confoundedly interesting, even lovable.

11 replies »

  1. If we were to do away with one time standard or the other, personally, I’d rather see the longer evenings. It makes little difference to me if the sun rises at seven o’clock or eight. I can however always find something to do with an hour more sunlight time in the evening. JMO

  2. All the appeals to Vermont pride, progressive thought, and high ideals aside, permanent DST extends the morning dark for two longer months, one on each end. For a state this far north, this has no small effect on our well-being. No sunrise until well in the morning would be hard to take, winter after winter.

    I remember when the US implemented year-round DST in the early 1970s. All of a sudden we were out at the bus stop in a darkness so black we could see the stars. It was long before dawn. Any discussion of permanent DST should take into serious consideration the effect it has on our mental well-being, on our school-going children, and on those who work outdoors.

    To be honest, I feel the pain of the switch each time. The loss of light in the morning when we ‘spring ahead’ and the dark evenings when we ‘fall back’ are hard to take. There are a lot of reasons not to switch.

    Why not make EST permanent? I would be interested in an article that covers the practical effects of each system. A well-constructed poll of Vermonters would make interested reading. This isn’t primarily a philosophical discussion; it hits home.

  3. Stop and think! Do you want your children waiting for a bus in the dark when the sun comes up at 8:30 in the morning if we don’t change the time! It’s not a big deal for four months to protect our children! Oh 90 percent of the clocks change by themselves, modern new world!

  4. Only in Vermont could a simple concept like DST, one which hugely benefits tourism, and therefore everyone’s bottom line in the warm months, be debated back and forth for 40 years. This is classic paralysis by analysis, and it plagues Vermont to this day.

    We have to stop catering to the touchy-feely crowd. Again, my 80-20 rule is in play, although in this case, it’s probably more 95-5. But regardless, you’re never going to make 100% of the people happy. 80-95%, depending on the gravity of the issue, is good enough. Let’s move on to more pressing matters and the 5% can move to Arizona. Or even better, Alaska.

  5. Daylight Savings is NOT good. Please let us keep EST year round. DLS is so disrupting; especially living on a farm with routines. And it takes way too long to adjust sleep patterns. Light in the morning is so much better!

  6. Have you noticed that the clocks are changed right around election day and during tax season?

  7. “Florida… passing legislation in 2018, the state passed the “Sunshine Protection Act,” which aimed to keep Florida on DST throughout the year. However, since federal law requires congressional approval for such changes, the state’s proposal has not been implemented.”

    That is disinformation — the federal government has no lawful authority to regulate the observance of time: All powers that were not delegated by the states to the federal government in Article I were reserved to the states by the tenth amendment. The power to regulate interstate commerce was intended to settle disputes BETWEEN states, not WITHIN states — but criminals in government treat the commerce clause as permission to regulate absolutely everything, even when doing so violates other provisions of the constitution. This is what Franklin meant when he said: ”a republic, if you can keep it.” When the congress is hijacked by pirates who violate the supreme law, it’s up to you to replace them.

    Franklin did not propose the idea of moving clocks forward or changing sleep schedules to “save daylight”. This common misconception stems from a satirical essay he wrote suggesting that Parisians change their sleep schedules to save money on candles and lamp oil. The modern concept of daylight saving time is credited to George Hudson, a New Zealand entomologist, who proposed a two-hour time shift in 1895 to have more after-work hours of sunshine for his bug hunting activities. Since changing the clocks twice a year bugs a lot more of us, they should be left alone… and reverting to normal time-keeping is a constructive way to assert our independence from an out-of-control federal government that no longer respects the constitutional limits on its jurisdiction.

    Daniel 7:25 = Uncle Sam

  8. Changing the clock is so much pillow arranging. It’s a non-issue. If you don’t want kids waiting for school buses in the dark at 7am, tell the school you want them to reschedule the buses to 8am. Or, better yet, homeschool your kids, or carpool. If the time change disrupts your sleep habits, set your alarm accordingly and tell your employer to do the same. Get up to milk the cows when the cows expect you to milk them. If your employer won’t accommodate your health needs, sue him, or find another job. The alternatives are infinite in scope. And so are the benefits and the detriments.

    Let the market work. One size doesn’t fit all. Never has. Never will. Changing the time, for whatever reason, is no business of government. The practice simply reinforces the illusion that our politicians (and our omnipotent, moral, busybody neighbors) know what’s best for everyone.

    As for me, I get up and go to bed whenever I damn well please.

  9. It always amazed and amused me to hear folks so “messed up” by the time change. Time is a construct. People who have to adjust one hour twice a year and can’t do it have inflexible minds, in my humble opinion. It is just a construct. It’s your decision on whether to adjust or fight it.
    And I know this will go over like a lead balloon… time is not linear. Sorry folks.

  10. As an old Vermonter, my memory is in conflict with the article’s apparent claim that Vermont had no DST between 1967 and 2005. I found an on line source that states Vermont has had DST continuously since at least 1970 and that seems likely to me. I definitely remember in the early 70’s when it was briefly tried year round.