By Scott Barman for the Gold & Silver Political Action Committee …..
From the Political Coordinator
When congress adjourns for spring break there may be a few stragglers that may be found in the halls of the congressional office buildings doing some sort of work. Staffers who live in the Washington, DC area work shorter hours to catch up on constituent-related issues. While the activity is not at the level as when congress is in session, there should still be activity.
At the end of March I was visiting one of my senators in the Hart Senate Office Building. This was not my first trip to the senator’s office but it was the first time that the Hart building seemed like a ghost town. My steps echoing as I walked around was an ominous feeling.
The staffer I first met in the senator’s office said that this is the first time he could think of that spring break brought such silence around the office. Even locals had gone on break to get away from “the insanity.”
After speaking with the senator, I spoke with a member of the staff. I was told not to expect any landmark legislation. Unless something in the news forces congress to pay attention, both sides are angry with each other for the heated rhetoric surrounding the reaction of the Merrick Garland nomination to the Supreme Court.
Since I had their attention, I used the opportunity to invite the senator and staff to join me at the Whitman Baltimore Expo so they can learn more about the issues facing the numismatic and bullion industries. Although they declined my invitation I hope they will consider a future visit.
Internet Sales Tax pressure from the Business Community
In March, business organizations like the American Supply Association, National Retail Federation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) saying, “America’s merchant community urgently needs Congress to resolve this serious issue that continues to disadvantage many small businesses and the communities they serve across the country.”
Business groups are pressuring Goodlatte and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to bring the Marketplace Fairness Act (S. 598) to a vote. In fact, businesses are counting on Sen. McConnell to keep his promise to bring the measure to a vote in the Senate after McConnell asked these groups not to oppose the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (Pub. L. 114-125), which passed in February.
The senate remains in virtual gridlock and refusing to work on any measure that even hints at an advantage for either of the parties. Given the strained relationships that have developed over the last month, it is unlikely McConnell will allow a vote on this until the lame duck session.
While trying to obtain a reaction from the House of Representatives, Rep. Goodlatte and his staff were unavailable for comment. A representative from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) office declined to comment noting that the committee is responsible for working on the issue.
New sales tax exemptions
In March, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a law that will exempt coins, paper money, and bullion from state sales taxes. The law goes into effect on July 1, 2016.
The Tennessee legislature had introduced two bills (H.B. 1672 and S.B. 1610) to exempt coins, paper money, and bullion from state sales taxes. The most recent action was the receipt of the potential economic impact if the law is passed. A recommendation based on the economic impact report was sent to Tennessee Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee for consideration.
After learning about the bills, the Industry Council for Tangible Assets (ICTA) has provided the Tennessee legislature with additional information. ICTA will be sending Tennessee numismatic business owners information as to how they can help convince the legislature to pass this measure.
Short Notes on Counterfeiting
It was reported that counterfeit 2015-W American Silver Eagle coins were discovered at the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) Show in January. Independent Coin Graders of Tampa, Florida discovered the coins and reported the find to Coin World. Coins were reported to have been purchased from an eBay seller.
It is suspected that Chinese counterfeiters are behind the recent findings of counterfeit SilverTowne, APMEX, and PAMP Suisse bullion including the packaging. Silver bars are usually silver-plated zinc that fooled professionals.
PAMP Suisse has developed a packaging that contains a digital signature that can be detected by a system it has designed. The system cannot verify earlier PAMP Suisse gold or any of their silver bars.
More on the comedic side of counterfeiting, two Long Island women were arrested for trying to pass $100 bills marked “For Motion Picture Use Only” as real currency. The women tried to pass the notes in local stores before fleeing an attempt to detain them. During their escape, the women hit a parked car and a pedestrian before driving away. The owner of the parked car followed the women and called the police. Both women were arrested and charged with petty larceny and leaving the scene of an accident.
- Paul Gilkes, “Counterfeit Proof 2015-W American Eagle silver dollar surfaces at show,” Coin World, March 10, 2016.
- Paul Gilkes, “Counterfeiters target silver bullion products of multiple manufacturers,” Coin World, Feb. 29, 2016.
- “Women Accused of Trying to Shop on Long Island with Movie Money,” WABC-TV, March 31, 2016.
Summary of Numismatic-Related Legislation
There was no numismatic-related legislation introduced in March. However, Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) introduced the United States Semiquincentennial [sic] Commission Act of 2016 (H.R. 4875). If passed, the bill will create a commission similar to the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 2026.
The bill encourages “Federal agencies to integrate the celebration of the Semiquincentennial [sic] into the regular activities and execution of the purpose of the agencies through such activities as the issuance of coins, medals, certificates of recognition, stamps, and the naming of vessels.”
Interestingly, “Semiquincentennial” does not appear to be a word. A “quincentennial” would be used to celebrate the 500th anniversary of an event. I do not believe this is a proper use of the prefix “semi.”
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