All laws should have a sunset

Every year, Hawaii Legislators propose new bills and amendments. In 2009, 250 measures passed in the Hawaii Legislature. This doesn’t even include all the proposed bills, vetoed measures, supporting documentation, and testimony (Hawaii State Legislature, 2010).

That’s a lot of legislation, and very little of it is going away.

In 2009 the Legislature proposed SB 1103, which would establish a commission to identify obsolete, redundant, conflicting, or ineffective laws. It wasn’t one of the 250 measures that passed, but I hope that it will.

Meanwhile, I propose a new legislative requirement: all new bills should have a sunset provision or expiration date.

A “sunset provision” designates a specific date when the law will automatically expire, unless the law is reauthorized or extended before the expiration date.

This allows lawmakers to make quick decisions, without committing to permanent legislation. We could “test-drive” legislation, knowing that if it’s not efficient, it will automatically come to an end.

If the law is effective, if it solves the problem and is affordable, then legislators should be willing to extend it. But if the law doesn’t work, legislators don’t have to do anything about it.

Winston Churchill said, “If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.”

Wouldn’t it be great if our legislators spent time improving existing laws, instead of passing duplicate laws to try to solve the same problems?

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2 Comments on “All laws should have a sunset”

  1. ramblingamerican Says:

    I agree. Here’s my article on the laws.

  2. January 2011 Update: The 2011 Hawaii Legislature introduced SB1449 and HB1615 “Government” that “Establishes the Hawaii Sunset Advisory Commission, comprised of members of the legislature and general public, tasked with regularly assessing governmental agency structures, functions, performance, and making recommendations and analyses on potential alterations for possible legislative action. Operates in conjunction with the legislature and auditor to perform assessment of governmental agencies according to a prescribed schedule to ensure regularity and consistency. Sets forth duties and responsibilities. Exempts certain agencies from scope of commission.”

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