Late last month, Governor Christie signed into law Assembly bill 3424, which extended the two percent cap on binding interest arbitration awards. I was present when Governor Christie inked his name to this bill, extending the cap through December 31, 2017.
The law which originally set the two percent cap was enacted back in 2010 when the Governor joined with legislative leaders to implement these important reforms to a segment of the government system that desperately needed revamping. Historically, it was a system that had often run amok, awarding benefits to the public unions in question without regard for the town or county’s ability to pay for such benefits.
The 2010 law was historic and vital—and temporary. The original law included a Sunset clause, which allowed the law and its terms to expire as of April 1, 2014 if no action was taken by the legislature to extend it.
Although I wholeheartedly support the continuation of the two percent cap on interest arbitration awards, Sunset provisions are a crucial tool in ensuring that legislation at all levels of government continues to provide a positive impact on the citizenry and fit the needs of the time.
Laws are created with good intentions, but a well-intentioned law of 1950 might find little applicability today. Even a law circa 2004, enacted during a time of great prosperity, could be significantly misaligned from the realities and necessities of post-Great Recession 2014.
Sunset provisions are the way we can ensure good laws continue on and ineffective, out-of-date, and out-of-touch laws cease. By including a Sunset clause in new legislation, we make an important and necessary commitment as legislators that we are not simply done with a law after it passes, but that we will continue to revisit it, assess its ongoing validity, and make changes or terminations when it no longer serves the best interest of the public.