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 7: Sunset clauses and experimental legislation beyond the law

Sofia Ranchordás

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


Legislators are not only influenced by existing law and legal principles, but also – and often primarily – by the ‘constraints and resources in [these actors’] milieu, including the behavior of implementing agencies’, interest groups and politics. Scholars and practitioners in these areas have analyzed the reasons behind the scarce use of policy phenomena or instruments that often perform comparable functions to sunset clauses and experimental legislation. This is the case of policy termination and policy experimentation. Policy termination has been defined as ‘the cessation of a public entity or a policy cycle’. Legislation cannot be understood detached from policy-making: novel policies often give rise to new laws that are regarded as their implementation vehicles, but policy can also be greatly determined by lawmaking. Due to this connection, the odds are that the factual reasons why legislators do not consistently employ sunset clauses or experimental legislation might be similar to the ones behind the reluctance to terminate policies or experiment with them, or take their results into consideration when enacting new policies. In this chapter, diverse non-legal challenges behind the enactment and implementation of sunset clauses and experimental legislation are examined: first, the intellectual and ideological reluctance to use these legislative instruments; secondly, the lack of information regarding sunset clauses and experimental legislation; thirdly, the role played by politics in the adoption of sunset clauses and experimental legislation. Although these issues have a ‘factual’ nature, they are also legally relevant for a complete understanding of the legislative instruments under analysis.

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