With no new United States Mint numismatic product releases until next week, I wanted to devote a few posts to coin legislation.
Within Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, “The Congress shall have the Power… To coin Money.” Accordingly, many aspects of what the US Mint does are dictated by specific laws passed by Congress. This includes the denominations authorized for production, the composition & specifications for most coins, the basic coin designs in some instances, and commemorative coin programs. (Incidentally, here are some instances where the US Mint or Treasury Department does have some independent authority related to coinage.)
The 112th United States Congress convened on January 3, 2011 and ended on January 3, 2013. By my count, during this time, there were 30 coin related bills introduced (not counting duplicate bills introduced in both the House and Senate). Ultimately, five of the bills were passed and signed into law.
Commemorative Coin Bills Passed by the 112th Congress and Signed into Law
- 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame ($5 gold coins, silver dollars, clad half dollars)
- 2015 March of Dimes (silver dollars)
- 2015 225th Anniversary of the United States Marshals Service ($5 gold coins, silver dollars, half dollars)
- 2016 Mark Twain Commemorative ($5 gold coins, silver dollars)
- 2017 Lions Clubs International Centennial (silver dollars)
Commemorative Coin Bills Not Passed by the 112th Congress
- 2013 Battlefields of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812
- 2014 Mother’s Day Centennial
- 2014 National Future Farmers Commemorative
- 2015 Marine Corps Aviation Centennial
- 2015 Panama-Pacific Exposition International Exposition and Panama Canal
- 2016 James Monroe Commemorative
- 2016 U.S.S. Cruiser Olympia
- 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame
- 2016 National Park Service 100th Anniversary
- 2017 Ronald Reagan Commemorative
- 2017 World War I American Veterans Centennial
- 2017 Boys Town Centennial
- 2018 100th Anniversary of Korean Immigration
In the 113th Congress, it is likely that some of the above bills will be reintroduced. Already, the bill seeking to authorize a program for the Pro Football Hall of Fame has been reintroduced.
Other Coin Related Not Passed
- Free Competition in Currency Act of 2011 (to repeal legal tender laws and eliminate tax on precious metals)
- Wasteful Presidential Coin Act of 2011 (to remove authorization for Presidential Dollars and limit $1 coin production)
- A bill to terminate the $1 presidential coin program (to remove authorization for Presidential Dollars)
- Prevention of Wasteful and Unneeded Coins Act of 2011 (to suspend issuance of $1 coins for 15 years)
- Dollars and Sense Act of 2011 (to issue only two Presidential Dollar designs per year and limit production)
- Presidential Dollar Coin Efficiency Act of 2011 (to improve the minting and issuance of $1 coins and eliminate stockpile)
- The Currency Optimization, Innovation and National Savings Act (to transition from $1 bills to $1 coins)
- The Currency Efficiency Act of 2011 (to restrict production of Presidential Dollars)
- Cents and Sensibility Act (to change the composition of cent to copper coated steel)
- Saving Taxpayer Expenditures by Employing Less Imported Nickel Act (to change the composition of 5-cent coin to steel)
- Collectible Coin Protection Act (to modify the Hobby Protection Act)
- Commemorative Coins Reform Act of 2012 (to prohibit the payment of surcharges to private organizations)
Many of the above bills dealt with the issue of the growing hoard of $1 coins held in storage at Federal Reserve Banks, which came in the spotlight in 2011. The issue was ultimately resolved when the Treasury Department using existing authority to suspend production for circulation. Nonetheless, in the 113th Congress, there is already a bill once again seeking to terminate the Presidential Dollar program.
The issue of the composition of the lowest denominations may also see renewed action. In November 2012, the House Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology held a hearing dealing with circulating coin production and alternative coinage materials. Some members of the hearing wanted to wait for the US Mint’s first required biennial report under the Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act of 2010 before coming to any conclusions. In the report the US Mint made no specific recommendations and simply asked for more time for research. Congress may not be willing to wait another two years for recommendations to come from the Mint.