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The “spring forward, fall back cycle” that we have grown up with all our lives could be coming to an end in Florida.

A bill to put Florida on daylight saving time year-round passed the state House of Representatives overwhelmingly (103-11) in February was likewise passed in less than a minute Tuesday by the state Senate, with only two dissenters. Gov. Rick Scott will likely sign the bill, but its future is clouded by a law that gives the U.S. Congress final say.

The Sunshine Act, co-sponsored by state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, would mean Florida clocks would eventually spring forward one last time and stay there. For nearly nine months, Florida would be in the same time zone as Nova Scotia (Atlantic Standard Time), an hour ahead of the rest of the eastern United States. 

"We are the Sunshine State so we want to have more sunshine," said Fitzenhagen on the House floor in February, urging colleagues to support the bill. "It will boost the tourism industry in our state because we are going to be able to go out later and go to restaurants and enjoy recreational activities." 

Federal law does not allow a state to switch to daylight saving time (DST) beyond the current March to November period. In 1966, Congress acted to prevent a patchwork extension of daylight saving time. The Uniform Time Act was enacted, giving the federal government control over when daylight time is adopted.

Daylight savings time starts March 11 this year and ends Nov. 4. The legislation is worded to take effect if the Congress amends the federal law.

Rep. Jeannette Nunez, R-Miami, a co-sponsor and speaker pro tempore of the House, acknowledged that unless Congress changes the federal rules, the legislation may not have any effect after the current legislative term expires next month.

In the region's restaurant and lodging industry extending the hours of sunshine, and sunset, into the evening is seen as having the most impact at places near the water.

"For the most part, I think that everybody thinks there would be advantages to Florida since we're the Sunshine State, " said Lois Croft, Southwest Florida regional director of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. "People think there would be an advantage to having an extended (sunshine) period in the evening."

Lisa Boet, co-owner of waterfront eatery Chez Boet in Naples’ Crayton Cove and founder of the Naples Originals restaurant alliance, was ecstatic at the prospect of light later during the winter season.

“This would be a wonderful thing for our guests. Many guests say ‘we can no longer drive in the dark.’ If it were light later, we would stay open later because we would do more business,” Boet said. “And these are the months of peak season” that would be affected. “From a business standpoint, it would be wonderful."

 

“I’ll be glad because servers won’t call in late and say they didn’t set their clocks properly,” said Buffalo Chips co-owner Chip Greenwood in Bonita Springs. “I had one server say she was late from the time change and I question that, because it was ‘fall back.’ I told her she should have been an hour early.”

On Marco Island, Lola Dial, recreation manager for the city’s Parks and Recreation Dept., said overall she would favor the proposal, but is happy either way.

“It just keeps people in the same state of mind” when they don’t have to adjust their schedules, she said, “but we’ve been doing it so long I’m used to it.” Her husband lived for years in Arizona, where they have never switched over, “and he loved it. He says, ‘I can’t understand why they have to go back and forth.’”

For her department, it would push back activities like Movies in the Park, but the city could save dollars by not having to light ballfields, said Dial.

While many in the tourism industry agree that extending sunshine will boost tourism, there are some, including golf course operators, who see potential issues for the state.

"Losing the hour in the morning would not be a good thing, most of the golfers want to play in the morning, they get that habit because of how hot it is from May to October, so they want to be the first ones out at 7 o'clock," said Rich Lamb, director of golf at Fort Myers Country Club. 

Golfer Scott Ippolito of Bonita Springs, though, said he thinks full time DST is long overdue.

“Not having it year-round is an outmoded concept from when we were an agrarian society. There’s nothing good about days getting dark early. I prefer having a little longer evening daylight.”

A part-time resident with a home in New Jersey, he invoked the specter of leaving work during winter days that were fully dark by 5 p.m. or even 4. “Kids were coming home from school in darkness,” he said.

Golfers Greg Faulkner and Ken Ralton, finishing up their nine holes at the Naples Beach Hotel golf course as the sun set, agreed.

“I hate it when it gets dark early,” said Faulkner. “Then I can’t enjoy myself after work.”

Television stations that rely on network program feeds see some issues with making a permanent change to the clocks, and anyone who plans to watch evening network news broadcasts at home at 6:30 p.m. may have to get their news an hour later.

TV networks deliver programs to local stations by satellite. Every night, each time zone gets a separate feed of network programs. The primetime feeds start at 8 p.m. and end at 11. When the rest of the eastern states fall back to Eastern Standard Time, Florida would remain on daylight time and receive prime time shows from 9-12.

"Our 11 o'clock news couldn't go at midnight," said Steven Pontius, executive vice president of Waterman Broadcasting Corp. and general manager of station WBBH-TV. "We could go to a prime time that's on a day-delay or a week-delay, all of that can be done, the technology exists, we just would have to figure out how we do it."

Pontius said his station would face issues with live news-oriented broadcasts, such as the NBC "Today" program, a morning mainstay since the early 1950s. It now begins at 7 a.m. Adopting year-round daylight saving time means the program would move to 8 in the winter, then back to 7 o'clock in spring.

"You're not going to get a special 'Today' show feed unless there are enough markets or states with large enough markets so that (network executives) say 'we'll bring the 'Today 'show cast in earlier,'" Pontius said.

Naples veterinarian Drew Gorman noted that shifting schedules affects animals as well as humans, and shifting back and forth causes everyone’s circadian rhythms to be disrupted.

“I just wish they would pick one time and stick with it, instead of going back and forth,” he said.

News-Press writer Bill Smith contributed to this report.

 

 

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