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Zer Netmouse
July 21st, 2012
11:01 am

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Why does Congress make laws that expire?

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From:nicegeek
Date:July 21st, 2012 05:48 pm (UTC)
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Sometimes, the votes might not be there to pass a permanent law, but by making some parts of it temporary, a bill's sponsors can bring a few more on board to get it passed. For examples on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum, consider the Patriot act, or the Bush-era tax cuts.

When a law is only able to pass very narrowly, that generally means that the country is conflicted about it; it's not universally accepted as a good law. But the way our legislative process works means that laws, once passed, have a lot of inertia; it takes a lot of effort to revise or repeal them even if they turn out to have been bad laws, especially if the special interest they favor starts lobbying to preserve them (think about farm subsidies).

I actually think that it would be a good idea if all laws automatically expired in, say, 20 years, unless passed by some level of supermajority. That way, outdated and controversial laws would get phased out over time unless agreement could be reached that they were really good ideas.
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From:lsanderson
Date:July 21st, 2012 05:55 pm (UTC)

quibble

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The bush era tax cuts had to meet revenue requirements/timelines to be passed in the senate and avoid a filibuster, I think...
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From:netmouse
Date:July 23rd, 2012 04:32 am (UTC)

Re: quibble

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CompliCAted. (thanks for the explanation)

Any chance we can convince you to run for public office sometime?
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From:netmouse
Date:July 23rd, 2012 04:21 am (UTC)
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But doesn't legal precedent, as upheld by the courts, stand until overturned? It seems to me the legal system is slanted toward being slow-moving and building consistencies people can rely on, yet these expiration dates create sudden changes.
From:nicegeek
Date:July 23rd, 2012 05:39 am (UTC)
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But doesn't legal precedent, as upheld by the courts, stand until overturned?

Generally, but if the law has changed, a court may decide that a precedent no longer applies, and ignore it. On appeal, higher courts will decide if the lower court was right to do so. The legal system has always had to deal with the laws changing underneath it; it's not an unusual thing.

It seems to me the legal system is slanted toward being slow-moving and building consistencies people can rely on, yet these expiration dates create sudden changes.

I don't think that's a problem, though; the expiration dates aren't a secret, and companies and people can plan for them, as can judges and bureaucrats.
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From:netmouse
Date:July 23rd, 2012 05:58 am (UTC)
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Yeah? Is there a place where the public can easily go to find out what laws are expiring this year? Or next year?
From:nicegeek
Date:July 23rd, 2012 01:36 pm (UTC)
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Easily? Probably not, but that's a general reflection of the way our laws are insufficiently indexed, and not specific to their having expiration dates. The laws themselves are public, so such an index could be created. There probably is one already somewhere, because reporters and analysts regularly field stories and reports about upcoming expirations. And if laws had a standard built-in expiration, it would be easy; just list all the laws that passed 20 years ago (or whatever the period was), with less than the permanence threshold.

Hmmm...it appears I'm not the first one to suggest this.
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