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Monday, April 29, 2019

Congress Needs to Sunset Unnecessary Legislation

One of the big problems with Washington, D.C. is that politicians allow expiring legislation to continue on -- even when unnecessary. The idea of requiring a sunset of legislation makes sense, because there are times when Congress needs to revisit legislation in the years after an idea is made into law. If the law continues to have popular support and is still necessary, then it should be reauthorized. When legislation is given a sunset date, because it addresses a temporary situation and the drafters intended for this legislation to remedy a short-term situation, then that legislation should be allowed to expire.

We have witnessed example after example of permanent legislation becoming that is in need of a revision or expungement. FreedomWorks has a funny list of federal laws that might be in need of a second look including: 21 USC Sec. 461 & 9 CFR Sec. 381.171(d) makes it a crime to sell “Turkey Ham” as “Ham Turkey” or with the words “Turkey” and “Ham” in different fonts; and, 18 USC Sec. 1865 & 36 CFR Sec. 7.96(b)(3) make it a federal crime to harass a golfer or tennis player in any national park in Washington, DC. There are elements in current law in need of a second look. These laws show that Congress has a difficult time dealing with changed circumstances and updating existing laws that seem to have no current useful purpose.

A great example of a law that Congress has an easy route to fix is one that is embedded in a law providing a massive subsidy to corporate America. Congress passed temporary legislation in 1988, and reauthorized in 2014, titled the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization Act (STELAR) containing the subsidy. This bill originally provided subsidies and special permissions for small and newly deployed satellite companies, to help them compete with dominant cable companies. These supports were put in place 30 years ago, yet they are continually reauthorized in legislation scheduled to sunset at the end of this year.


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