JACKSON • Sunday could be the last time Mississippians change their clocks to spring forward or fall back if bipartisan proposals pending before Congress and the state Legislature win approval.

One bill co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith would make daylight saving time — the period we just entered with an extra hour of light in the evening — permanent for all states. Another congressional plan would let states choose if they want permanent daylight saving.

“The public safety improvements, economic benefits and the wellbeing of the American people are all excellent and credible reasons to embrace year-long daylight saving time,” the Republican Hyde-Smith said in a statement. “I know the agricultural sector in Mississippi and across the nation desires this change."

The Mississippi Legislature is onboard with the idea: Lawmakers passed a bill this week to make daylight saving time permanent if Congress allows it. Under current federal law, states can't take this step on their own — they can only choose permanent standard time, as Arizona and Hawaii have done.

Authored by Northeast Mississippi lawmaker Rep. Tracy Arnold, R-Booneville, House Bill 1062 sailed through the Legislature with only one dissenting vote. Two other pending resolutions before lawmakers also advocate for Congress to let Mississippi permanently switch to daylight saving time.

If Gov. Tate Reeves signs the legislation into law, Mississippi would join 15 other states that have enacted legislation to create year-round daylight saving time if Congress allows it, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In the southeast, Louisiana, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida and South Carolina have already opted in.

Daylight saving began during World War I as a strategy to save energy — and not at the urging of farmers, as some believe. It was abolished, but then returned in World War II before it was once again repealed at the end of the war.

At that point a confusing mix of time systems were adopted around the U.S. So in 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which sought to fix the problem by setting up the system we have today: States either must change their clocks to daylight saving at a specified time, or opt out and stick with standard time throughout the year.

Research suggests these constant time changes aren't good for us. Car accidents, workplace injuries and heart attacks increase in the days after we spring forward and lose an hour of sleep, studies say. The constant time changes have also been linked to depression and increased suicide rates when clocks fall back.

Hyde-Smith also pointed to potential benefits for the economy and for agriculture by sticking with daylight saving time. The time change can lead to decreased consumer spending, according to a JP Morgan Chase study. And it can disrupt agriculture by "upsetting the synergy between farmers' schedules and their supply chain partners," according to Hyde-Smith's office.

"I believe the Sunshine Protection Act would give us an immediate and long-term boost after a terrible pandemic year and a very dark winter," Hyde-Smith said of the legislation she cosponsored with a bipartisan group led by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

Not everyone is convinced. One nonprofit has a name, Save Standard Time, that plainly reveals its position. The group points out a shift to permanent standard time — unlike daylight saving time — doesn't require congressional review and has been "happily observed" for years in Arizona, Hawaii and all the U.S. territories.

"Clocks are not arbitrary," the organization argues on its website. "Standard Time is an objective approximation of solar time, which is biologically entrained in our every living cell."

LUKE RAMSETH is a Jackson-based reporter covering the 2021 session of the Mississippi Legislature for the Daily Journal. Email him at lramseth@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @lramseth.

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