N.J. senator says it’s time to stop turning back the clocks

Sen. Shirley Turner hopes her effort to make Daylight Saving Time year-round succeeds this time

By: - November 23, 2021 6:55 am

Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) said after being cooped-up during the pandemic, people “want to be out and about and let loose” and should get more afternoon daylight. (Courtesy of New Jersey Senate Democrats)

In her 27 years as a state lawmaker, New Jersey Sen. Shirley Turner has helped pass legislation on such weighty issues as protecting children in foster care, ending the death penalty, and protecting older workers from age discrimination.

Now, she wants to change time.

The Democrat from Mercer County introduced a bill last year to make Daylight Saving Time year-round in New Jersey, which would spare New Jerseyans the oft-forgotten chore of setting their clocks back an hour every November. It is the third time Turner has tried to tinker with time — she introduced similar bills in 2019 and 2016, but both went nowhere.

Last week, though, the bill advanced after the Senate’s State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee approved it. It now faces a vote by the full Senate. An identical Assembly bill,introduced by Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-Bergen), is stalled in that body’s State and Local Government Committee.

Turner thinks the pandemic persuaded her Senate colleagues that the time is right to upend a practice that Benjamin Franklin first proposed in 1784 and the United States adopted in 1918.

“During this pandemic in particular, people have been locked into their homes for the most part for the past year and a half. They want to be out and about and let loose. They are more depressed than ordinary, and we don’t need any more depression,” Turner said.

Turner said she’s long wanted New Jersey to join Arizona, Hawaii, and several islands like Guam and Puerto Rico — the only U.S. states and territories that don’t observe Daylight Saving Time — in “locking the clock.” Losing an hour of sunlight not only leads to seasonal depression, but it also disrupts sleep cycles and could put children, senior citizens, and other vulnerable residents at increased risk for crime or accidents if they get caught outside as darkness descends earlier, Turner said.

It also hurts the economy, she added.

“When it’s dark, people want to go home and more or less hibernate during the darkness and the winter. They don’t go out to stores or restaurants after their work day or their school day ends,” Turner said.

When it’s dark, people want to go home and more or less hibernate during the darkness and the winter. They don’t go out to stores or restaurants after their work day or their school day ends.

– New Jersey state Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer)

Critics who prefer standard time counter that morning traffic accidents rise during Daylight Saving Time, when there’s less morning light and more sleepy, inattentive drivers.

The debate may be moot, because changing time would require federal lawmakers to act first. The federal 1966 Uniform Time Act requires states to either change clocks to Daylight Saving Time at a certain time and day — or stay on standard time all year, as Arizona, Hawaii, and the U.S. tropical islands do.

A few federal lawmakers want to amend the law. The Sunshine Protection Act would preserve Daylight Saving Time year-round nationally. That act has been introduced repeatedly, in 2018, 2019 and again this year, by Republicans including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who regards the biannual time change as “stupid.”

This may be the only time Turner and Rubio see eye to eye on something. But Turner points out the national legislation has bipartisan support.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with politics,” Turner said. “It has to do with common sense. It’s just an inconvenience to everybody regardless of your party.”

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Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.