By Mina Corpuz
Boston University Statehouse Program
A version of this story appeared in the Telegram & Gazette.
BOSTON — Massachusetts may be looking forward to sunnier days.
A special commission to consider doing away with changing the clocks twice a year in the Bay State heard from experts Wednesday about the benefits of permanent daylight saving hours.
Daylight savings began Sunday and will run into November, giving much of the country an extra hour of sunlight.
Sen. Eileen Donoghue, who chairs the commission, said moving clocks forward in the spring and back in the fall may not save money and energy costs.
“It’s just an assumption,” Donoghue, D-Lowell, said. “We’re trying to separate out the facts and data and anecdotes for what’s the reason and benefits from daylight savings.”
Daylight saving time began during World War I. It has been supported by businesses and retail and opposed by farmers and schools.
Experts who spoke about the public safety, economic and energy factors expressed support for keeping the state in daylight saving hours.
Professors from the University of Virginia and Cornell University addressed the commission over conference call about their paper examining the effect of light on criminal activity.
Their nationwide study found that robberies decreased 7 percent overall and more than a fourth during commuting hours because people are less likely to offend in the day time.
The Retailers Association of Massachusetts presented a survey of its members that shows support for a consistent time zone could help boost shopping hours.
“Anything we can do to continue to get consumers to support the local economy and jobs is a good thing,” President Jon Hurst said in his testimony.
Peter Shattuck, a member of the commission and director of the Clean Energy Initiative at the Acadia Center, said in his presentation daylight saving hours could help reduce energy consumption in the evenings and meet energy demands in the winter time.
Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island have filed legislation and formed commissions to remain in daylight saving hours.
Commissioners also asked whether New York would join the push.
“[We’re] seeing a movement in terms of looking at this issue,” Donoghue said, “rather than just kind of blithely going along and turning our clocks forward and back without really comprehending why we’re doing it or if it makes sense now in 2017 to keep doing it that way.”
Permanent daylight saving hours would land the state in Atlantic Time Zone shared by Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and parts of Canada, putting Massachusetts an hour ahead of the East Coast for parts of the year.
Although the commission is considering Eastern daylight saving hours, Donoghue said the time zone change is related.
Time zone changes require an act of Congress or regulatory action by the federal Department of Transportation.
Recommendations for the Legislature are expected in April, Donoghue said, but the commission wants to give the impacts full consideration before drafting a report.