Setting the Sun on Legislation

Both sunset clauses and experimental legislation are temporary legislative instruments that provide legislators with the required flexibility to determine the destiny of legislative provisions according to the evolution of society, economy and technology. While experimental regulations aim to be a first step towards lasting legislation, sunset clauses are usually ‘born’ to fulfil a mission and then ‘die’ after a fixed period.

Sunset clauses (or provisions) are dispositions that determine the expiration of a law or regulation within a period determined beforehand. A sunset clause submits a legislative act to a final evaluation, on the grounds of which renewal based on exceptional circumstances can occur.[1] Since a sunset clause is designed to be terminated at a certain point in time, its renewal implies an inversion of the burden of proof: contrarily to permanent legislation, parties claiming that a sunset clause should be reauthorized must prove that this reauthorization is necessary. Sunset clauses allow for the adjustment of regulation to changing social or technological circumstances and determine the expiration of unnecessary acts, avoiding in this way ‘overregulating’ the sector and placing more burdens on the industry. In addition, the introduction of temporary laws may be useful to assess the underlying risks of a novel policy. In this context, sunset clauses can be used as a ‘precautionary instrument’ to assess new policies and verify whether relevant risks for the environment or public health may emerge from technological novelties.[2]

  • [1] Anthony Davis, ‘Review Procedures and Public Accountability in SunsetLegislation: An Analysis and Proposal for Reform’ (1981) 33 Administrative LawReview 393.
  • [2] Ph. Eijlander and R.A.J. van Gestel, Horizonwetgeving: effectief middel inde strijd tegen toenemende regeldruk?: een onderzoek naar de functie vanwerkingsbeperkingen in wetgeving ter vermindering van regeldruk (Ministerievan Justitie, 2006) 23.
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