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Congress to consider coin bills

As the 112th Congress moved toward the end of its first session in December, there were more than 30 coin-related bills that have been dropped in the hopper by sponsors. Few will be formally considered, and of those, it is likely that only one or two measures will become law by the end of 2012.

A number of measures are perennials – one member of Congress, or another, agrees to sponsor the measure, but then does little to promote it, and it dies. Others are more active in their promotion and might even get one house of Congress to approve it, but not the other side. Both the Senate and House must agree and the President sign off to create a new law.

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The Ronald Reagan commemorative coin bill, H.R. 497, drawn up by Rep. Robert Latta, R-Ohio, is one of these – now with 40 co-sponsors – but trapped in a House financial services subcommittee since March with little chance of action.

One that succeeded in passing the House, H.R. 2527, the National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act, was moved by Rep Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., and found 296 cosponsors – passing the House in late October and referred on Oct. 31 to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs where it languishes.

Two measures were both referred on the same day to the House coinage subcommittee: the U.S.S. Cruiser Olympia Commemorative Coin Act sponsored by Rep Robert A. Brady, R-Pa., has 20 co-sponsors, and H.R. 3187, the March of Dimes Commemorative Coin Act of 2011, introduced by Rep. Robert Dold, R-Ill., has 61 co-sponsors. A Senate bill, S. 1935, was introduced Dec. 1 by Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., with seven co-sponsors.

Although it would seem obvious to choose a particular denomination, the March of Dimes Act calls on the Mint to produce up to 500,000 silver dollars that would benefit this well-known charity. The U.S.S. Cruiser Olympia is the world’s oldest steel warship afloat. She was launched in 1892 is the sole surviving United States naval ship of the Spanish-American war.

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Mark Twain would be honored by S. 1929, with a commemorative coin act bearing his name courtesy of Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.,, introduced Nov. 30. It was a perennial favorite of Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., before he retired, but even as Banking committee chair he was unable to move the bill.

Last but not least: .H.R. 3512 : To amend the Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Coin Act to adjust how surcharges are distributed, introduced by Rep, Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., on Nov. 29 and sent to the Financial Services Committee the next day. The conclusion of the Lincoln bicentennial celebration led its committee to disband, and Congress needs to find a new home for funding.

Nearly all of the proposals follow a cookie-cutter mold of up to 500,000 silver dollars; occasionally there is provision for a $5 gold coin and a copper-nickel half. The buyers – nearly all of whom are collectors – have proven with their wallets what they think of the programs with fewer issues bought nearly every time.

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