Sunset Clauses and Post-Legislative Scrutiny: Bridging the Gap between Potential and Reality

Sunset Clauses and Post-Legislative Scrutiny: Bridging the Gap between Potential and Reality
Sunset clauses set an expiration date on a particular law or set of provisions. The expiration is either automatic or subject to a positive or negative authorisation by the legislature.
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17 January 2022
Authors
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Sean Molloy
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Maria Mousmouti
Introduction
Sunset clauses were in high demand in COVID-19 acts and regulations, with the main function to ensure that the restrictive measures adopted to respond to the pandemic extended no longer than necessary.

Sunset clauses in are often regarded as important safeguards of democracy, particularly where emergency legislation is needed.

This publication identifies reviews of emergency law as central to the effectiveness of sunset provisions. After detailing some of the difficulties associated with these reviews, the authors draw on examples from post-legislative scrutiny (PLS) more generally to identify best practices. This is to help identify how those involved in both drafting and reviewing emergency legislation might bridge the gap between the potential of sunset clauses and the realities that often arise.

The publication explores three key areas:

  • How those involved in both drafting and reviewing emergency legislation might bridge the gap between the potential of sunset clauses and the realities that often arise
  • The essential features of effective sunset clauses that can promote legal certainty and democratic deliberation
  • How sunset clauses can only provide effective safeguards for legal certainty and democracy if they are well drafted and accompanied by substantive review processes
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