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Could California end Daylight Saving Time?

Alan Wilson, director of James Ritchie & Son clockmakers, adjusts a clock face to British Summer Time on March 26, 2010 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Californians who either love or hate daylight saving time may have the opportunity to express their opinions at the ballot box if one state lawmaker gets his way. 

Assemblyman Kansen Chu (D-San Jose) has authored a bill that asks the legislature to put the question to voters over whether to stop switching to daylight saving time every spring. 

It's the second time in as many year Chu has sought a ballot measure to repeal the state Daylight Saving Time Act. 

The current bill, AB807, goes before legislative committees next month. Last year's version of his bill died after a few hearings.

In the 68 years that the state has been springing forward and falling back, daylight saving time has been fodder for argument. Waiting in line at a Pasadena post office, Reggie Reed says he loves the time change. "It's nice to have a change, more walks, cooler day at the end."

But Pasadena resident Bob Miller would rather leave the clocks alone.

"It's an unnecessary change. I'd rather have the light in the morning because I get up and work out first thing in the morning," Miller said.
    
First proposed by Benjamin Franklin to save on candles, daylight saving time was used during World War I in the United States. California voters turned down initiatives to enact daylight saving time failed in 1930 and 1940. The state Legislature also said no to daylight saving time five times.

But after it was used as an emergency energy-saving measure during World War II, the population got more used to the idea.  An initiative to enact daylight saving got on the 1949 ballot at the request of a then-record 312,000 signatures.

The arguments for daylight saving time in the 1949 ballot were built around the economy and safety. Other big American cities had already adopted daylight saving. In a hot state like California, it meant that the work day would start at a cooler hour of the morning and give workers another hour of daylight to travel safely home. Proponents promised workers would suffer less fatigue,  have fewer industrial accidents and be more efficient. After all, it would create more time for California businesses to communicate with counterparts in East Coast cities.

The promised social benefits were less juvenile delinquency and an extra hour for healthy outdoor recreation.

Changing the clocks was against nature itself, went some opposing arguments. Mothers would have to put their children to bed while the sun was still out. Churches would lose attendance, the arguments went. Drive-in movie theaters were opposed because it shortened the time available to project movies on giant outdoor screens.

A farmer's group wrote the opposing argument:  "If people in the cities want daylight savings of one hour, the businessmen and industry should decide to open their stores, offices and plants an hour earlier and close an hour earlier. This would not disrupt the clock in any way and would allow farmers and other groups governed by the sun to keep a normal, year around schedule."

Voters approved daylight saving time in 1949 with 55 percent of the vote.
    
When first passed, daylight saving time was a lot shorter, from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in September, or 22 weeks. California voters in 1962 extended it to the last Sunday in October, making it 26 weeks. Congress tinkered with the dates ten years ago and today's version of daylight saving  lasts 29 weeks, from mid-March to the first Sunday in November.
    
Hawaii and most of Arizona do not change their clocks with the seasons. In 1966, Congress passed a law requiring states to either adopt daylight saving time or to stay on standard time year-round. That means federal law would have to be amended to keep daylight saving time -- and that extra hour of daylight after work -- all year round.