By Scott Barman for the Gold & Silver PAC …..
From the Political Coordinator
As I was sitting down to talk with an old friend over coffee, he turns to me and says, “I think frankly when it comes to chaos you ain’t seen nothing yet.” This Washington veteran, who began his career as an intern during the height of the Watergate investigation, attributed this quote to Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party. While trying to confirm the quote, I learned that Farage, a very outspoken right-wing leader in the U.K., will now be providing commentary on a U.S. cable news network that supports his views.
In the week following the inauguration of the new president, both sides are not happy. Long-time, regular Republicans found an opening last Friday to begin criticizing the president while many in the far-right Freedom or Tea Party Caucus have not been as active as in the past. Democrats have vowed to twist even the most arcane rule against the new administration’s agenda.
Before I write these newsletters, I call Capitol Hill contacts on both sides of the aisle to talk about the issues. Most of these people will talk with me for at least five minutes – more if they have something to say. Since the inauguration, I have spoken with two Democratic staffers for less than two minutes combined and none of the Republican staffers have returned my calls.
Rank-and-file government workers are feeling uneasy. Orders have been given to NASA, the Department of Energy, and Forestry Services to “shut up” and stop talking about policies they find unpopular. In the State Department, the Dissent Channel, a form of communications used since the Vietnam War for those in Foreign Service to vent their frustrations, was temporarily shut down when it was learned that the dissent turned to vitriol because of presidential directives issued during the administration’s first week.
The result on what has been perceived as an attack on government workers has those eligible for retirement considering their options. Others are looking at offers from contractors who could bid on filling the vacancies of the positions being vacated during the hiring freeze. Just like previous hiring freezes, government workers will be continuing their current jobs but as contractors. While it appears to reduce the headcount of government agencies, there are estimates from the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office that using contractors in this manner costs the government more money.
Given the rocky start to the 115th congress and the 45th presidency, it may take a while before a direction in policy-making settles.
Leadership at the U.S. Mint
With the departure of Rhett Jeppson as Principal Deputy Director, Dave Motl has been named Acting Principal Deputy Director until the new administration appoints new leadership. Prior to taking on this role, Motl was serving as Chief Administrative Officer. The administration has not provided a timeline as to when new leadership will be appointed.
Waiting for the Internet Sales Tax Discussions
As congress is settling into its new session and reacting to the new administration there have been no bills or discussions regarding adding sales taxes to Internet purchases. A source reported that during a meeting in Richmond, Virginia, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) told his audience that he continues to not support many of the ideas that have been presented to congress. Goodlatte reiterated that he was not in favor of allowing a one-size-fits-all approach that does not consider the differing needs of the states.
Counterfeit Buffalo Silver Rounds in Indiana
Police in Richmond, Indiana arrested Dennis Heavilon, 65, for selling counterfeit buffalo silver rounds. Made to look like one-ounce .999 silver rounds, police were called after a victim filed a complaint. When arrested, the police found that the coins were silver-plated over base metal. Police are not sure they have accounted for all of the counterfeit rounds. Dealers in the area are cautioned to examine buffalo rounds brought to their shops before purchasing.
More restrictions on dealers may be coming in Minnesota
Hopkins, Minnesota, a suburb west of Minneapolis, may impose a one-year ban on new pawnshops, currency exchanges and coin dealerships so that they can explore strengthening regulations.
Although there have been moratoria on pawnshops and currency exchanges, this appears to be one of the first that adds coin dealerships to the list. This action follows the implementation of dealer regulations that started out as restrictive and had to be refined so as to not hurt established businesses.
Once a municipality in a metropolitan area starts down this path, others will follow. Twin Cities dealers may want to work with the Hopkins City Council to ensure that they understand the differences between a professional coin dealership and other businesses.
Virginia House passes tax exemption on coins
The Virginia House passed a bill (H.B. 1668) to exempt legal tender coins whose total transaction sales price exceeds $1,000 from sales and use tax on a unanimous vote. As written, the bill exempts sales taxes on all “gold, silver, or platinum bullion or legal tender coins.” If passed by the Virginia Senate, the measure will expire on June 30, 2022.
The bill awaits action in the Virginia Senate Committee on Finance.
Britain’s new pound coins to arrive in March
Britain’s Royal Mint and the Bank of England has confirmed that the new 12-sided £1 coins will be placed into circulation on March 28, 2017. The new coins are thinner, bigger, and lighter than the current coin, nicknamed the “round-pound.” To make these coins more secure than the round-pound, the new coins are bimetallic, contains a hologram-like image called a “latent image,” and include micro-lettering. Edges are milled on six of the sides using an alternate pattern. The Royal Mint also says there are “hidden high security features” without going into details.
Both the new and round-pound coins will co-circulate until October 15, 2017. After that, the coin will be demonetized and removed from circulation. The old coins will be accepted for deposits following demonetization.
The Royal Mint and the Bank of England are helping businesses prepare for the transition.
Summary of Numismatic-Related Legislation
A new congress means a new round of legislation. We begin the new congress with a new historical celebration commission, a commemorative bill, and what looks like a future quarter design bill.
Widgets courtesy Govtrack.us
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If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]. “Letters to the Editor” are appreciated and may appear in a future newsletter.
Scott Barman, Political Coordinator for the Gold & Silver PAC
Barry Stuppler, Chairman Gold & Silver Political Action Committee