By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ….
On September 14, U.S. Representative James A. Himes (D-CT4) introduced the American Innovation $1 Coin Act (H.R. 6025) into Congress. Similarly to the 50 States Quarters program, the bill requires the Secretary of the Treasury to “mint coins in recognition of American innovation & significant innovation and pioneering efforts of individuals or groups” from each of the 50 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. territories.
Assuming the bill is passed, the Mint would issue new designs starting in 2017, picking up where the Presidential $1 Coin program left off. The Presidential series began in 2007 and ended earlier this year with the release of the Ronald Reagan $1 coin on July 1. And if for some reason production on the American Innovation coin program cannot begin in 2017, the Treasury Secretary is authorized to issue his or her choice of past Presidential $1 designs as a stopgap measure – provided that the national motto “In God We Trust” be moved to the obverse if it had previously been located on a Presidential dollar coin’s edge.
Native American $1 Coins would continue to be produced alongside the new series.
The common obverse design should be “emblematic of liberty” but does not specify that the Statue of Liberty must be used, like it is on the Presidential $1 coin. The motto “In God We Trust” must also be inscribed on the obverse.
Each reverse will feature an “image or images” representing each state, territory and federal district and must be “emblematic of one of the following”:
- Significant innovation with its roots or origins in the state, district or territory;
- A specific innovator or pioneer from the state, district or territory; or
- A group of innovators or pioneers;
The name of the state, district or territory and the inscriptions $1 and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA will be located on the reverse. The legend E PLURIBUS UNUM is to be incised on the edge of the coin.
The Secretary of the Treasury will consult with the governor of each state and territory as to the contents of each design. He or she will also consult the federal Commission of Fine Arts (CFA). The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) will review and discuss each design as well.
Four coins will be released every year over the next 14 years (2017-2031). Starting with Alabama, each state, district and territory will be represented on a dollar coin in alphabetical order. If a new state joins the Union during the run of the program, then the Treasury Secretary is authorized to release a fifth coin to any given year’s output.
Representative James Himes, a democrat from the Fourth Congressional District of Connecticut, introduced the Act on the floor of the House. As of September 27, the bipartisan bill also has seven cosponsors: Vern Buchanan (R-FL16), Bob Dold (R-IL10), Tom Emmer (R-MN6), Bill Foster (D-IL11), Gwen Moore (D-WI4), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN3) and Bill Posey (R-FL8).
Himes worked for the banking and financial firm Goldman Sachs for 12 years before being elected to Congress in 2009. He is currently the ranking member on the House NSA and Cybersecurity Committee. Rep. Himes is up for re-election this year.
Incidentally, Connecticut is home to a number of inventors and innovators. Mary Dixon Kies, the first woman to receive a patent in the United States (1809), is from Killingly. Semiconductor laser inventor Robert Hall and vulcanized rubber developer Charles Goodyear are from New Haven. Dictionary maven Noah Webster, revolver magnate Samuel Colt and banking mogul J.P. Morgan were all born in the capital of Hartford. The inventor of the can opener, Ezra Warner, and the creator of the paper clip, William Middlebrook, came from Waterbury. And in Himes’ own district, Kenneth Olsen of computer manufacturer DEC and Edward Land of Polaroid are from Bridgeport.
Another famous Bridgeport native and American innovator? P.T. Barnum.
Comments on Coin Legislation
Much collector and commemorative coin legislation in the United States Congress consists of legislative boilerplate. Specifications, surcharges, the number and type of coins in a program, etc. – many of these clauses are used again and again, with the occasional tweak. The approach, it must be said, is a good one; it improves the text and readability of proposed legislation to use the same well-honed, relatively succinct language, and it streamlines the legislative process by rendering most coinage bills noncontroversial and eligible for a vote under suspension of the rules. Usually.
It does not, of course, make new proposals immune from the problems of over-legislation or poor wording. And if a new bill copies its boilerplate from a problem law, then the flaws of one bill are inadvertently carried over into another.
Rest assured, the American Innovation $1 Coin Act is not a problem bill (inasmuch as yet another dollar coin program isn’t a problem). But it has inherited its share of strangeness from other laws.
The “strangeness” in question is Section 2, (3)(B)(iv):
“(iv) APPLICATION IN THE EVENT OF INDEPENDENCE.—Notwithstanding paragraph (3)(B)(i), if any State or territory becomes independent or otherwise ceases to be a State or territory of the United States before $1 coins are minted pursuant to this subsection, the subsection shall cease to apply with respect to such State or territory.
In such a contentious election year, it is somewhat shocking to encounter this statement in an otherwise unremarkable bill. However, the clause can be found in the United States Code at 31 U.S. Code § 5112 (r)(6)(B), so it does not originate with Representative Himes.
Frankly, why would such an extremely unlikely event bear mentioning in a coin bill? Surely Congress would have other problems on its hands were a state to secede or be kicked out than whether or not the Treasury Secretary overstepped his or her legal bounds by eliminating a single coin from a 14-year-long program?
To us, the provision is a rather amusing yet oddly paranoid example of over-legislation.
The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. The widget below, courtesy of govtrack.us, will update as the bill progresses through the House and Senate on its way to possible enactment.