Sunset Provision

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Sunset Provision

A statutory provision providing that a particular agency, benefit, or law will expire on a particular date, unless it is reauthorized by the legislature.

Federal and state governments grew dramatically in the 1950s and 1960s. Many Executive Branch administrative agencies were established to oversee government programs. The escalation of government budgets and the perception that government bureaucracy was not accountable led Congress and many state legislatures in the 1970s to enact "sunset" laws.

Sunset laws state that a given agency will cease to exist after a fixed period of time unless the legislature reenacts its statutory charter. Sunset provisions differ greatly in their details, but they share the common belief that it is useful to compel the Congress or a state legislature to periodically reexamine its delegations of authority and to assess the utility of those delegations in the light of experience.

There are two types of sunset provisions. In some instances the statute creating a particular Administrative Agency contains a sunset provision applicable only to that agency. In other instances a state may enact a general sunset law that may eliminate any agency that is unable to demonstrate its effectiveness.

Sunset provisions have had a checkered history. Although they were popular at the state level in the 1970s and early 1980s, sunset laws have produced mixed results, and many states have repealed ineffective sunset legislation. Few agencies have been terminated under sunset provisions, in part because agencies develop constituents who do not want the service to end. In addition, the cost of disbanding agencies and reassigning work can be expensive.

Attempts to pass a federal sunset law in the 1990s, which would have required formal reauthorization of federal programs every ten years, were unsuccessful. Advocates of accountability have abandoned the idea of "sunsetting" agencies and have sought to strengthen agency reauthorization requirements by incorporating rigorous performance measurements and enforcing appropriate discipline in government.

In addition to their application to government agencies, sunset provisions have been applied to laws themselves and to benefits, such as immigration benefits. Without reauthorization by the legislature, the law or benefit ceases on a particular date.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Iran could agree to an extension of the sunset provisions for 10 to 15 years, as well as to limit rockets, missiles, and military infrastructure in Syria and Lebanon, reducing the prospect of a wider regional war between Israel and Iran.
But the expiration of the sunset provisions, the first of which is in 2024, means that the breakout time could eventually drop.
The officials and advisers said the main sticking point on the Iran deal remains the sunset provisions, with the Europeans balking at US demands for the automatic re-imposition of sanctions should Iran engage in advanced nuclear activity that would be permitted by the agreement once the restrictions expire.
One of the key provisions of Hill's bill is the removal of the sunset provision. This would allow more time for the various pilot programs to fully develop.
Most of us are well aware of the sunset provisions that will take effect by the end of the year.
Section 304 of the 2010 tax act also extended the sunset provisions for the federal estate tax through January 1, 2013, provided in [section] 901 of the 2001 tax act.
On February 9, 2007, as the sunset provisions were very close to expiring, the minority Conservative government introduced a motion to extend preventive arrests and investigative hearings for three years (Roach, at p 10).
Durbin admits that there are "attractive sunset provisions in place at some of the wirehouses" that may be appealing to brokers looking to exit the business, but he notes they're also "heavy on income when it comes to taxation.
Our main argument has been that sunset provisions can slow the pace of democratic reform by preventing democratically elected presidents from building on their predecessors" policy achievements.
This Article argues that, due to certain pathologies of the legislative process, legislation enacted with sunset provisions lacks benefits hailed in recent scholarship while also harming the political process and its output.
Congress could continue delegating authority to the president to make international agreements, she suggests, but those delegations should be narrow and include sunset provisions. The president should have to submit more agreements to Congress for review before they go into effect, a requirement that would encourage him to seek the legislative branch's input throughout the process.