Massachusetts is exploring the possibility of observing daylight saving time all year round, which would mean abandoning the ritual of adjusting clocks twice a year. You know: spring forward, fall back.
If the Bay State were to take this step, it would mean running one hour ahead of its neighbors for the six months between September and March – unless, of course, other states did the same.
Sen. Eileen Donoghue chairs the special commission looking into adopting year-rond daylight saving time. She sees the willingness of the other New England States and New York to make the same switch as pivotal parts of the equation.
"There's been movement in other New England states to either follow suit or look into it as well. So there's a movement and there's an interest and it may be that the time has come now to take a deep dive and figure out what makes the most sense," Donoghue said.
"The regional issue is obvious and yet at some point the discussion has to be started," Donoghue added.
Wednesday's meeting focused on the impact to public safety and energy.
The commission heard testimony by phone from professors Nicholas Sanders of Cornell University and Jennifer Doleac from the University of Virginia. The pair coauthored a study that found a seven percent decrease in crime during extended daylight hours.
A 2007 case study of the weeks before and after the hour shift shows a slight decrease in electricity use.
"These are the benefits of turning the lights on later. We use less electricity," Commissioner Peter Shattuck said.
Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, told the panel that his members support doing away with the biannual shift and adopting one year-long time standard.
Hurst surveyed his 4,000 member and received a 5 percent response rate, which he said was high for his group. The survey found that 34 percent of retailers support the idea of switching to Daylight Savings Time year round. Another 24 percent wants to switch to Standard Time year round. A similar number, 23 percent, does not think the state should take any action on its own and 19 percent of retailers support sticking to the current system.
Hurst suggested more research into consumer opinions would be helpful in determining what the commission eventually decides.
"I think what we're seeing is, the more we are looking into these issues the more layers of questions kind of surface," Donoghue said, "There's no easy answer on the surface just yet."
The state commission is made up of state officials, a meteorologist and representatives from the business community. It was required by the law that established it to file its findings in March, but at Wednesday's meeting, commissioners began planning for further sessions into April.