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Charles B. Sears Law Library SUNY Buffalo Law School

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Hold the S, Gain an Hour

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Daylight Saving Time 2012

It’s that time of year again, the end of Daylight Saving Time, that wonderful night when you get to “fall back” into an extra hour. Debates continue as to whether or not gaining the extra hour is actually an energy saver,  but let’s be honest: the thing most people care about is the fact that you are gifted with an extra hour of sleep (at least until March 10, 2013—my anticipated least favorite day of 2013—when we spring forward to lose the hour).

In its early years, Daylight Saving Time (DST)—not “Daylight Savings Time” although most people say it that way anyway—provided more confusion than joy. Even though Ben Franklin mentioned the concept of DST back in 1784 amongst his many witticisms and inventions, we tip our hat to George Vernon Hudson for the modern concept of DST. The U.S. uniformly adopted DST in 1918 because of World War I, but Congress later repealed it—against President Woodrow Wilson’s objections—in 1919, allowing states to choose whether or not to partake in DST. While exercising his presidential power in 1942, FDR reinstated DST across all fifty states (as a war measure), but once again the law was repealed in 1945. Until 1966, it was a free-for-all once again with states choosing whether or not to partake. The state-by-state decision could make broadcasting and public transportation scheduling a real headache, so Congress eventually stepped in with the Uniform Time Act of 1966. The law has been tweaked slightly since then, the most recent adjustment being the move from the last Sunday in October to the first Sunday in November (effective in 2007).

So don’t forget to turn back those clocks before you go down for the count tonight because you don’t want to be that person who’s an hour early—and thus confused—for everything tomorrow.

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