On April 6, Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH) reintroduced the Cents and Sensibility Act (H.R. 2067), which proposes “to save the American taxpayers money by immediately altering the metallic composition of the one-cent, five-cent, dime, and quarter-dollar coins, and for other purposes.”
Cosponsored by Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH) and Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH), the act is further described in a press release as “bipartisan legislation [that] lowers the cost of producing pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters by ensuring they are minted with steel instead of minerals imported from outside the United States.”
Under H.R. 2067, the new coins would differ from our existing coinage only in their metallic composition. Furthermore, they would be struck exclusively from steel produced in the United States, provided that “an adequate supply of an appropriate grade of steel [can be] produced in the United States in sufficient and reasonably available quantities.” The bill, which does not apply to numismatic coins, would affect all circulating coins beginning 90 days after the bill’s enactment. (Additional provisions of the H.R. 2067 can be viewed here.)
Rep. Stivers has long been a proponent of all-steel coinage. He first introduced the Cents and Sensibility Act (as H.R. 3693) and the Saving Taxpayer Expenditures by Employing Less Imported Nickel Act (H.R. 3694) on December 15, 2011. Those bills applied only to cents and nickels; the present Cents and Sensibility act covers all currently circulating denominations.
“This legislation is a common-sense solution to decrease the cost of minting pennies and nickels,” said Stivers of his 2011 bills. “Not only will it cost less, but steel is an American resource that we have and can manufacture right here in our backyard.”
The 2011 bills ultimately died, but a determined Stivers reintroduced the Cents and Sensibility Act in 2013—this time expanding the language to include all circulating U.S. denominations—and again in 2015. This time, he pointed out that “a study by Navigant Consulting reported that the federal government could save approximately $2 billion over 10 years, in metal costs alone, by changing the composition of the nickel, dime, and quarter to steel.”
As has been much discussed in the media, U.S. coinage is expensive to make, especially the 1- and 5-cent denominations, which cost more than their face values to produce. The Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-302), which took effect in December 2010, authorized the secretary of the Treasury to conduct research-and-development activities on coinage materials. Since that time, the Mint has released biennial reports on this research—one in 2012 and another in 2014, with a third, for 2016, being expected soon.
National cost savings are not Stivers’ only concern. Steel is a big deal in Ohio, and a natural interest for Stivers and his cosponsors, who represent the contiguous 15th, 3rd, and 12th congressional districts (which include and surround the capital, Columbus). The Mahoning Valley area—sometimes called “Steel Valley”—is a historical center of iron and steel production, and is one of many American regions that were affected by the steel crisis of the 1970s and, later, the influx of cheap foreign steel in the 1990s and into the 2000s. Despite these substantial hits, Ohio has ranked “second in the nation in raw steel production every year of the last decade… 13 companies on Fortune magazine’s U.S.-1,000 or Global-500 lists have iron and steel industry establishments in Ohio; three of them—AK Steel, Timken Steel, and Worthington Industries—maintain their world headquarters” in Ohio. (See “Advanced Manufacturing: Ohio Iron and Steel Industry, January, 2016.”)
H.R. 2067, which has the endorsement of the American Iron and Steel Institute, has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. ❑