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Standard vs. daylight time still unsettled in General Assembly

A debate in the Georgia House and Senate over whether Georgia should observe standard or daylight saving time all year continues to rage entering the last day of this year’s legislative session. The House voted 11148 Monday to put Georgia on daylight time yearround, substituting that language for a bill the Senate passed last month calling for permanent standard time. “Most people prefer daylight saving time over permanent standard time,” Rep. Wes Cantrell, R-Canton, declared shortly before Monday’s vote.

Cantrell backed up that assertion by citing a recent poll in Politico that found Americans prefer permanent daylight time over standard time 5-1.

Even if the Senate abandons its position and agrees with the House on switching to daylight time year round, it can’t do so without congressional approval.

Under federal law, states are permitted to switch to standard time year round if they wish, and Arizona and Hawaii have made the change. However, states must wait for Congress to act before they can observe daylight time all year. Cantrell said if Congress approves the switch, the legislatures in Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana and Arkansas have committed to going to daylight time, reason enough for Georgia to act.

“Georgia will be the odd man out,” he said. Georgia lawmakers have reached a consensus on one key element in the debate: They don’t like switching back and forth twice a year. Sen. Ben Watson, RSavannah, chief sponsor of the Senate bill calling for permanent standard time, has cited studies that show switching between standard and daylight time interrupts sleep patterns and, more importantly, increases the risk of illnesses including heart attacks.

Watson and other lawmakers also have expressed concerns that going to daylight time all year would put children getting on school buses at greater risk during the winter, when sunrise would occur as late as 8:30 a.m.

But the Senate appears now to be leaning toward permanent daylight time, despite having passed Watson’s standard time bill.

The Senate is scheduled to take up Cantrell’s House bill on Wednesday, the last day of the 2021 legislative session. A substitute bill approved by the Senate Rules Committee on Monday calls for Georgia to observe daylight saving time year round, if Congress decides to let states make that change.

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