By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ….
Tucked away in a bill ostensibly about maintaining and improving America’s transportation infrastructure is text amending Title 31 of the United States Code (subsections of §§ 5112 and 5132) to allow the U.S. Mint to alter the composition of some of its silver coinage.
Until the DRIVE (“Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy”) Act was signed into law by President Obama on December 4, Title 31 stated that all silver coinage produced by the Mint was to have a “content of 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper”. Now, such language has been amended to say “not less than 90 percent silver” [emphasis added] and does not specify the use of copper.
According to 31 U.S. Code § 5132, the altered text applies to silver half dollars, quarter dollars and dimes–in effect, commemoratives and silver proof sets.
Also part of the infrastructure bill and now enacted into law is language concerning the 30th Anniversary American Eagle Silver Bullion Coin. The new law states that 2016 Silver Eagles will have a smooth instead of a reeded edge and will contain edge lettering that commemorates the 30th anniversary of the program.
Interestingly (if such a word can be used to describe an infrastructure bill), the DRIVE Act has a complicated legislative history.
The amendments to sections 5112 and 5132 of Title 31 included in the DRIVE Act started out as the complete text of House bill 1698 (H.R. 1698), the Bullion and Collectible Coin Production Efficiency and Cost Savings Act. Representatives Bill Huizenga (R-MI2) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY12) introduced the bill to Congress on March 26, 2015 and it passed the House on June 23.
Meanwhile, the Senate was still working on another bill, the Hire More Heroes Act of 2015 (H.R. 22), which sought to encourage the employment of veterans by exempting said veterans from being counted among the number of employees a company has when it comes time to determine that company’s obligations under the Affordable Care Act. Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL13) introduced H.R. 22 on January 6 and it passed the House on the same day.
However, the Hire More Heroes Act failed a critical cloture vote on July 21 (a “cloture” vote is a vote to end debate on a bill and bring it up for a vote of passage). The Senate then decided to amend H.R. 22 by incorporating the text of yet another bill – S. 1647, or the original DRIVE Act – into Hire More Heroes in an attempt to pass much-needed infrastructure funding after more than a decade of partisan gridlock over the issue. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) introduced Senate bill 1647 on June 24, 2015 but many conservatives were opposed to it because they believed it contained too much pork barrel spending.
The amended version of H.R. 22, into which the Senate had folded Rep. Huizenga’s and Maloney’s bill, passed the Senate on July 30 and was reconsidered and passed by the House as amended in early November. Differences between the Senate and house versions were reconciled on December 3, and the president signed the entire bill into law the next day.
The DRIVE Act was also referred to as the FAST (“Fixing America’s Surface Transportation”) Act in the House of Representatives.
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