Daylight savings returns despite debated history

A bright light at the end of a dark winter's tunnel, bringing sunshine back to the early evening hours, daylight savings time is just around the corner.

Daylight saving time, or DST, is the period of the year when clocks are moved one hour ahead. In the United States, this has the effect of creating more sunlit hours in the evening during months when the weather is the warmest.

Clocks will be set forward one hour on Sunday, at 2 a.m.

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology at the US Department of Commerce, the annual federal mandate began in 1918 with passage of the Standard Time Act, after it was first observed in several European countries.

Pittsburgher Robert Garland is popularly credited with its introduction in the United States, after he spearheaded a City Council Committee to aid in the shipment of metal ore to the "steel city." Shortly thereafter, it was adopted by the federal government, to be abolished in 1919, according to records held by the Library of Congress. The act was deemed to be so unpopular at the time, that it was overturned despite a presidential veto by 28th President Woodrow Wilson.

Many cities continued the practice, and it was again adopted in 1942 and dubbed "war time" until World War II had passed in 1945.

An act of Congress would again make DST the practice of the land on a permanent basis in 1966, when the Uniform Time Act was passed by the 89th Congress.

However, there remained little agreement as to exactly how the law could best be enacted, causing it to be amended several times over the years.

The 1966 law, originally required states that observe DST to begin it at 2 a.m. local time on the last Sunday in April, and disallowed states from opting out. 

Since its inception, it's best been defined by the famed phrase: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time," coined by John Lydgate, a 15th century English monk and royal poet.

The law was amended in 1986 to move the uniform start date for DST to the first Sunday in April.

Again, in 2007, the system saw major changes, with the first amendment to the law in over 20 years.

The new changes were enacted by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which extended the length of DST in the interest of reducing energy consumption. The rules increased the duration of DST by about one month. DST is now in effect for 238 days, or about 65 percent of the year, although Congress retained the right to revert to the prior law should the change prove unpopular or if energy savings are not significant.

A report published by the Department of Energy reported a .03 percent energy savings in the first year of implementation.

A review of proposed legislation on DST turned up several attempts to abolish it outright throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, an opinion that some continue to voice.

In an opinion poll on Facebook soliciting comments on Thursday, Barb Rice commented, "Let's do away with it."

DST is not observed in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the state of Arizona. If you're among the many who would rather not abide by DST, time marches on, and Standard Time will return on Nov. 3, 2019,  at 2 a.m.

Local fire departments and The American Red Cross are also urging people to check their smoke detectors as they turn clocks ahead, as both tasks need to be done at least twice a year.