In public policy, a sunset provision or sunset clause is a measure within a
statute A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs the legal entities of a city, state, or country by way of consent. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. Statutes are rules made ...
regulation Regulation is the management of complex systems according to a set of rules and trends. In systems theory, these types of rules exist in various fields of biology and society, but the term has slightly different meanings according to context. F ...
or other law that provides that the law shall cease to have effect after a specific date, unless further legislative action is taken to extend the law. Most laws do not have sunset clauses and therefore remain in force indefinitely, except under systems in which desuetude applies.


The roots of sunset provisions are laid in
Roman law Roman law is the legal system of ancient Rome, including the legal developments spanning over a thousand years of jurisprudence, from the Twelve Tables (c. 449 BC), to the '' Corpus Juris Civilis'' (AD 529) ordered by Eastern Roman emperor Jus ...
of the mandate but the first philosophical reference is traced in the laws of Plato. At the time of the
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Res publica Romana ) was a form of government of Rome and the era of the classical Roman civilization when it was run through public representation of the Roman people. Beginning with the overthrow of the Roman K ...
, the empowerment of the
Roman Senate The Roman Senate ( la, Senātus Rōmānus) was a governing and advisory assembly in ancient Rome. It was one of the most enduring institutions in Roman history, being established in the first days of the city of Rome (traditionally founded in ...
to collect special taxes and to activate troops was limited in time and extent. Those empowerments ended before the expiration of an electoral office, such as the
Proconsul A proconsul was an official of ancient Rome who acted on behalf of a consul. A proconsul was typically a former consul. The term is also used in recent history for officials with delegated authority. In the Roman Republic, military command, or ...
. The rule ''Ad tempus concessa post tempus censetur denegata'' is translated as "what is admitted for a period will be refused after the period". The same rules were applied in the Roman emergency legislation. The fundamental principle appeared in several areas of legislation and later codified in the '' Codex Iustinianus'' (10, 61, 1). The principle was broken when
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; ; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC), was a Roman general and statesman. A member of the First Triumvirate, Caesar led the Roman armies in the Gallic Wars before defeating his political rival Pompey in a civil war, ...
became dictator for life.


Sunset provisions have been used extensively throughout legal history The idea of general sunset provisions was discussed extensively in the late 1970s.

United States

Colonial and early state legislatures

Sunset provisions were a frequent legislative tool used by the colonial and early state legislatures but would decrease in popularity as the legislatures institutionalized.

Federal level

In American federal law parlance, legislation that renews an expired mandate is a ''reauthorization act'' or ''extension act''. Extensive political wrangling often precedes reauthorizations of controversial laws or agencies. High-profile examples in American law include:

=Sedition Act of 1798

= Part of the
Alien and Sedition Acts The Alien and Sedition Acts were a set of four laws enacted in 1798 that applied restrictions to immigration and speech in the United States. The Naturalization Act increased the requirements to seek citizenship, the Alien Friends Act allowed th ...
, the Sedition Act was a political tool used by
John Adams John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Father who served as the second president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. Before his presidency, he was a leader of ...
and the Federalist Party to suppress opposition. The authors ensured the act would terminate at the end of Adams' term so that it could not be used by Democratic-Republicans against the President's own party.


= Under §224 of the
USA PATRIOT Act The USA PATRIOT Act (commonly known as the Patriot Act) was a landmark Act of the United States Congress, signed into law by President George W. Bush. The formal name of the statute is the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appr ...
, several of the surveillance portions originally expired on December 31, 2005. These were later renewed, but expired again on March 10, 2006, and were renewed once more in 2010. Section 102(b)(1), which states, "the civil rights and civil liberties of all Americans, including Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, and Americans from South Asia, must be protected, and that every effort must be taken to preserve their safety" was set to sunset on March 15, 2020. On March 15, 2020, the House of Representatives left the chamber without voting on an extension for the remaining provisions of the act, which sunset the following provisions: * §201 Wiretapping for
terrorism Terrorism, in its broadest sense, is the use of criminal violence to provoke a state of terror or fear, mostly with the intention to achieve political or religious aims. The term is used in this regard primarily to refer to intentional violen ...
cases * §202 Wiretapping for computer fraud and abuse * §203(b) and (d) Sharing of wiretap and foreign intelligence information * §§204, 206, 207, 214, 215, 218, and 225 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act related sections including roving wiretaps * §209 Warranted seizure of voicemail messages * §217 Computer trespasser communications * §220 Nationwide service or warrants for electronic evidence * §223
Privacy Privacy (, ) is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves, and thereby express themselves selectively. The domain of privacy partially overlaps with security, which can include the concepts of a ...
violation civil liability

=Assault Weapons Ban

= In 2004, the sunset provision of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban terminated the law.

=Budget Act and the Byrd Rule

= The Congressional Budget Act governs the role of Congress in the budget process. Among other provisions, it affects Senate rules of debate during the budget reconciliation, not least by preventing the use of the filibuster against the budget resolutions. The Byrd rule, named after its principal sponsor, Senator Robert C. Byrd, was adopted in 1985 and amended in 1990 to modify the Budget Act and is contained in section 313. The rule allows Senators to raise a point of order against any provision that is extraneous, where extraneous is defined according to one of several criteria. The definition of extraneous includes provisions that are outside the jurisdiction of the committee or that do not affect revenues nor outlays. Importantly for sunset provisions, the Byrd rule also defines as extraneous provisions that "...would increase the deficit for a fiscal year beyond those covered by the reconciliation measure." Since the Budget Act says the budget resolution covers at least the four years following the ''budget year,'' which is typically the year following the year it was adopted, that is the usual period of time. However, budget resolutions have covered periods as long as ten years, so a reconciliation measure may cover the ten years. This rule has the effect of allowing congress members to raise a point of order against any spending increase or tax cut that does not contain a sunset provision that ends it after five or ten years (conceivably longer). (Otherwise, the provision increases the deficit in a fiscal year after the period covered by the budget resolution.) Appealing or waiving a ruling based on the Byrd rule requires a three-fifths majority of 60 in the Senate. In short, a net effect of the Byrd Rule is to require that any spending increase or tax cut be approved by a majority of 60 if it does not contain a sunset provision. This is intended to assure there is no increase in the deficit after the budget resolution period (though there is an exception that, if the total effect on the deficit in a particular title is to not increase the deficit, the point of order is not triggered). With the sunset provision, only a simple majority is necessary in the budget reconciliation process.

=Estate tax and other tax cuts of 2001

= In the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 the US Congress enacted a phaseout of the federal estate tax over the following 10 years, so that the tax would be completely repealed in 2010. However, while a majority of the Senate favored the repeal, there was not a three-fifths supermajority in favor. Therefore, a sunset provision in the Act reinstates the tax to its original levels (and indeed, all tax cuts contained in the Act) on January 1, 2011, in order to comply with the Byrd Rule. Congress enacted new estate tax levels before the sunset provision was triggered.

State level

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, "Colorado, Florida and Alabama passed the first sunset laws in 1976. Texas and 21 other states followed suit in 1977. Eventually, a total of 36 states passed broad sunset statutes"; however, dissatisfaction with the sunset process left only 22 states still using it by 1992.


= The Texas Sunset provision was established in 1977. Under Texas law, all agencies – except universities, courts, and agencies established by the Texas Constitution – will be abolished on a specific date, generally 12 years after creation or renewal, unless the Texas Legislature passes specific legislation to continue its functions. A 12-member Sunset Advisory Commission oversees the provisions of the Texas Sunset Act. The commission consisting of five members of the Texas Senate and one member from the general public appointed by the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, and five members of the House and one member from the general public appointed by the Speaker of the
Texas House of Representatives The Texas House of Representatives is the lower house of the bicameral Texas Legislature. It consists of 150 members who are elected from single-member districts for two-year terms. As of the 2010 United States census, each member represents abo ...
. Legislative members are appointed for four-year terms, with half of the commission reappointed on or before September 1 of odd-numbered years, while public members serve two-year terms. The chairman and vice-chairman are appointed by the lieutenant governor and speaker, and the chairmanship alternates between the Senate and House every two years. The commission is assisted by an executive director and staff, who review each agency subject to sunset provisions. Under the process, each agency must perform for the commission a self-review of its roles and responsibilities, including areas where its duties may overlap those of other agencies and the effect of the agency's abolition on loss of federal funding. The self-review must be completed by September 1 of the odd-numbered year before the year when the agency would be otherwise abolished. The commission must then complete its own review by the following January 1 and hold public hearings by the following February 1. About 20 to 30 agencies go through the sunset process each legislative session. Constitutionally established agencies are subject to review, but they cannot be abolished under the sunset provisions. The commission may recommend that an agency be continued in its present form (nearly always with recommendations to the legislature for improvement), consolidated with another agency, or abolished, with its duties either eliminated or transferred to other agencies.

=Other states

= Alabama has a similar review process with a more limited number of agencies and a review cycle of every four years.

United Kingdom

A sunset clause was introduced by the
House of Lords The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers, is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is by appointment, heredity or official function. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminste ...
to some parts of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005; the act was eventually passed without it. Part 5 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, "Reduction of legislative burdens", made provision for sunset and review provisions" in secondary legislation, i.e. *a power to review the effectiveness of the legislation within a specified period or at the end of a specified period *provision for the legislation to cease to have effect at the end of a specified day or a specified period *a power to consider whether the objectives which it was the purpose of the legislation to achieve remain appropriate and, if so, whether they could be achieved in another way.


In Canada all legislation enacted under Section Thirty-three of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (subsection three of the ''notwithstanding clause'') has an implied sunset clause of five years, this being the maximum length legislation enacted under the section may be operative for (unless an earlier date is specified). The Canadian Anti-Terrorism Act contains a sunset clause that went into effect in February 2007. Special laws enacted to deal with emergency situations often contain sunset clauses; one of the most infamous special laws, Quebec's Bill 78, had a sunset clause.


In 2005, the Australian Government decided to legislate new Anti-Terrorism laws. These laws have a sunset clause of ten years. In 2007, the Liberal Democratic Party proposed a constitutional amendment to make sunset clauses compulsory in all legislation that lacks the support of a 75% parliamentary supermajority. Th
Legislative Instruments Act 2003
legislates the automatic expiry of most legislative instruments ( delegated legislation). Starting in 2015 these legislative instruments must be renewed or they expire automatically.


In the German legislation sunset provisions are applied on several federal levels. The German constitution rules a general sunset provision of six months for emergency legislation. Some federal states, e.g.,
Hesse Hesse (, , ) or Hessia (, ; german: Hessen ), officially the State of Hessen (german: links=no, Land Hessen), is a state in Germany. Its capital city is Wiesbaden, and the largest urban area is Frankfurt. Two other major historic cities are D ...
North Rhine-Westphalia North Rhine-Westphalia (german: Nordrhein-Westfalen, ; li, Noordrien-Wesfale ; nds, Noordrhien-Westfalen; ksh, Noodrhing-Wäßßfaale), commonly shortened to NRW (), is a state (''Land'') in Western Germany. With more than 18 million inha ...
sporadically add sunset provisions to bills.

South Korea

A sunset provision can be found in the Corporate Restructuring Promotion Act,The English translation of this Act as of May 17, 2010 i
available here
which is to facilitate out-of-court workout of insolvent companies. This Act was effective during the period: :i) from January 2001 to December 2005 for the first time; and again :ii) from January 2007 to December 2010. Now the Act came into force for the third time on May 19, 2011, and will be effective to December 2013. The main content of the Act has been kept intact for the purpose of constant corporate debt restructuring through market functions and promotion of speedy and smooth corporate restructuring, while some minor provisions were modified from time to time.

Republic of China on Taiwan

The Additional Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of China are a set of temporary articles of the original constitution that apply to the Free area of the Republic of China with a semi-presidential system. These articles that have a sunset provision that will terminate them in the event the ROC regains control of
Mainland China "Mainland China" is a geopolitical term defined as the territory governed by the People's Republic of China (including islands like Hainan or Chongming), excluding dependent territories of the PRC, and other territories within Greater China ...

New Zealand

The Electoral Integrity Act was passed in 1999 to discourage " waka-jumping" in a mixed-member proportional parliamentary system. The amendment expired as scheduled in 2005.


{{DEFAULTSORT:Sunset Provision International law Legislative legal terminology Public policy Treaty law Time in government