Constitutional Sunsets and Experimental Legislation

Constitutional Sunsets and Experimental Legislation

a Comparative Perspective

Elgar Monographs in Constitutional and Administrative Law series

Sofia Ranchordás

This innovative book explores the nature and function of ‘sunset clauses’ and experimental legislation, or temporary legislation that expires after a determined period of time, allowing legislators to test out new rules and regulations within a set time frame and on a small-scale basis. Sofia Ranchordás presents a thorough analysis of sunset clauses and experimental legislation from a comparative perspective, and offers a clear legal framework for their implementation.

Chapter 2: The past and present of sunset clauses and experimental legislation

Sofia Ranchordás

Subjects: law - academic, comparative law, constitutional and administrative law, politics and public policy, public policy


Temporary legislation is a broad term used to refer to different forms of temporary legislation and regulations, such as temporary effects legislation, emergency legislation, sunset clauses and experimental legislation. The terms ‘temporary legislation’ ‘Gesetzgebung auf Zeit’ (in Germany) or ‘tijdelijke wetgeving’ (in the Netherlands) stand for laws and regulations that terminate at the end of a period established beforehand, except if the legislator decides otherwise. As introduced in Chapter 1, temporary laws are not enacted on a systematic basis in Germany, the Netherlands and the United States, but they are no rarity. In these three jurisdictions, temporary laws appear to serve specific purposes. Temporary legislation is often regarded as an extraordinary tool or even a ‘necessary evil’ for problems that permanent legislation would not be able to solve. To illustrate, a rapid legislative response to calamities or to political instability requires extraordinary but temporary measures (for example, curfew laws) and cannot afford to wait for the end of the bureaucratic legislative process. Temporary laws can, however, be employed for a number of other less common reasons, including the production of information, resolution of uncertainties or search for political consensus. In this chapter, two types of temporary legislation and their functions are ‘demystified’: sunset clauses and experimental legislation. Both legislative instruments are characterized by their temporary character and can be used to perform a number of functions.

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