New Study Explores Relationship Between Temporary (Sunset) Legislation, Better Regulation, and Experimentalist Governance


Ittai Bar-Siman-Tov


Time to read

2 Minutes

Recent years have seen burgeoning global interest in temporary (sunset) legislation - statutory provisions enacted for a limited amount of time, after which they expire, unless their validity is extended. One of the main reasons for this recent interest is that temporary legislation is often seen as a key tool for experimentalist governance approaches and as an important part of the ‘better regulation’ agenda. Yet, despite the importance of temporary legislation and the burgeoning theoretical scholarship on the subject, there is still a dearth of empirical studies about how temporary legislation is used in practice.

Filling this gap in the scholarship, a recent study, forthcoming in Regulation and Governance, seeks to empirically investigate the link between temporary legislation, experimentalist governance, and better regulation.

My article reports the findings of an extensive multi-method empirical study about the actual use of temporary legislation in the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset). Its findings challenge the link between temporary legislation, better regulation, and experimentalist governance, and reveal a significant gap between theoretical scholarship and legislative reality.

At the same time, the study’s other findings challenge several additional conventional wisdoms in the scholarship. The study reveals that temporary legislation is not a rarely-used legislative oddity and that temporary legislation is, in fact, becoming increasingly prevalent. The study found dramatic growth in the number of temporary laws enacted, as well as in their ratio out of all legislation enacted (from 3.49% in the 1st Knesset to 15.41% in the 19th Knesset). It also reveals that, contrary to the common assumption that the sun rarely sets on sunset legislation, most temporary laws in the study have, in fact, expired, suggesting that temporary legislation may be a useful tool for policy termination.

This study will hopefully lead the way to additional empirical and comparative studies about temporary legislation. In the meantime, it is a first step in empirically informing the theoretical and normative scholarship on temporary legislation, experimentalist governance, and better regulation.

Ittai Bar-Siman-Tov is an Assistant Professor at Bar Ilan University Faculty of Law.


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