Sunset All Federal Laws

by Jeffry R. Fisher

A Proposal to Amend the US Constitution

Have you noticed how, once enacted, even controversial laws rarely get repealed, even when the government changes hands? If I could go back in time to 1787 with a few ideas for the Constitutional Convention, then a six-year sunset on all federal laws would be at the top of my list.

Temporary Majorities

The framers themselves realized that spending authorization should carry forward no more than a year so that a temporary majority in one Congress would not be able to spend money simply by obstructing repeal after losing an election. The same thinking should have been applied (and still should be applied today).

Obstructionist Authoritarianism

We shouldn't let inaction or obstruction result in continued federal authoritarianism. Indecision by Congress should result in a passive, not active executive. A mandatory sunset would prevent an obstructive minority from prolonging an exercise of power no longer favored by a majority.

Therefore, in order for any law, department, or regulation to continue, we should require Congress periodically to find a new majority that is willing and able to act positively. Make them publicly justify their continued support in the face of real results and unintended consequences.

As the Wheel Turns

I think that six years, being the term for senators, would be a fair compromise between tedium and authoritarianism. Therefore, I propose a US Constitutional amendment that would automatically cause each federal law (unless, like spending, already given a shorter period) to expire within six years of last signing unless renewed.

I can imagine congress-critters' whining now: "If we had to rehash and renew the whole federal register every six years, then we'd hardly have time to write anything new!"

My reply: "Um... So what's the downside Senator?"

Copyright 2009 by Jeffry R. Fisher: Permission is granted to reproduce this article in whole, but only in combination with attribution, the original title, the original URL, and this copyright notice.

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