The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to switch the nation over to year-round daylight saving time, a move that would lead to more light in the afternoons but darker mornings in the winter.
Daylight saving time is already used eight months of the year, from mid-March to mid-November. The legislation, passed unanimously by voice vote, would get rid of the ritual of moving clocks back one hour in the fall and forward one hour in the spring.
U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King both backed the bill in the Senate. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st District, is sponsoring companion legislation in the House, saying it would get rid of an “outdated ritual” and give kids more time to play outside.
Maine is further north than most U.S. states, so days are already shorter here in the winter than other places. Changing the clocks will not change that. Maine is also on the easternmost edge of the Eastern Time Zone, which extends as far west as Michigan and Indiana. That means Maine typically sees earlier sunrises and earlier sunsets than other places in the same zone.
Maine towns see the earliest sunsets in early December. In Portland, the sun sets shortly after 4 p.m. In Caribou, it sets as early as 3:43 p.m. Under year-round daylight saving time, those sunsets would be an hour later.
On the flip side, Maine would also see later sunrises in the winter. Under current standard time, the latest sunrises across the state are around 7:15 a.m. Under year-round daylight saving time, the sun would not rise until after 8 a.m. from early December through late January.
The late sunrises still would not be as dramatic in Maine as they would be in some other parts of the U.S. In Detroit, Michigan, which is in the same time zone as Maine, the sun already rises around 8 a.m. in the depths of winter. Under year-round daylight saving time, the city would see 9 a.m. sunrises for roughly two weeks.
Congress previously switched to year-round daylight saving time in 1973, a move billed at the time as something that would help save fuel amid high global gas prices. In response to the darker mornings, at least half of Maine schools pushed back their start times, according to Maine Department of Education estimates reported in the Bangor Daily News at the time.“Half of Maine schools change starting hours” 10 Jan 1974, Thu The Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine) Newspapers.com
But the switch to year-round daylight saving time did not last very long, with the late sunrises being a major complaint. Congress passed another law in the fall of 1974 restoring the twice-a-year changing of the clocks.
A shift away from daylight saving time has been discussed often over the years in the Maine Legislature, including in 2019, when lawmakers passed a measure that would drop the twice-annual clock shifts only if other states in the time zone did as well.
BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.