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Park quarter legislation foggy

If you think you know how many National Park quarter designs will be produced in the series that starts 2010, it will pay you to think again.

 The law is specific in that it covers the 50 states (where Delaware alone lacks a national park), the District of Columbia, and five named insular territories that include the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands.

Nothing should be more clear than the intent of the law’s sponsors to produce either 56 coin designs (or 112, if the alternative that allows the Secretary of the Treasury to decree that there should be a second round to benefit an entirely different group of historic sites, making it into a 20-year program – the longest in history).

Not so, suggests Susan Headley, who heads up and edits a section of the New York Times “About.com” Web site, who suggests that the language of the new law makes it a 57-coin program (or a 114-coin alternative) – the 50 states, Washington, D.C., the insular territories and (the 57th coin) the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

Not only is her analysis astute, and legally correct, but taken to its extreme there could easily be four additional coins (to a total of 60, or 120 if doubled). The additional coins have to do with the four components of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

Mystery additional coins could come from The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, whose origins start as the United Nations trust territory in Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean. Administered by the United States from July 18, 1947, its members are originally a League of Nations Mandate administered by Japan and taken by the United States in 1944. They are all part of a Compact of Free Association (Nov. 3, 1986) and an Amended Compact that entered into force in May 2004.

What, pray tell, you ask has all this to do with the new law designed to “provide for a program for circulating quarter dollar coins that are emblematic of a national park or other national site in each State, the District of Columbia, and each territory of the United States, and for other purposes?”

Headley points to a unique section 102 of the new law that calls for “the Redesign and Issuance of Quarter Dollars Emblematic of National Sites in Each State, the District of Columbia, and Each Territory,” and the subsequent subsection which offers a unique definition, “INCLUSION OF DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, AND TERRITORIES – For purposes of this subsection, the term ‘State’ has the same meaning as in section 3(a)(3) of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act.”

This differs from the language utilized in the legislation that created the extension of the State Quarter Program to include Washington, D. C., and the insular territories. That specific language was as follows: “Territory defined – For purposes of this subsection, the term ‘territory’ means the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.”

Presumably, the words “District of Columbia” are sufficiently well-established as to not require further explanation.

Most consumers are familiar with the FDIC because that is the federal agency that governs insured deposits and banking institutions. Less well known is just how broadly based its cushion is, and that goes with enabling legislation found in title 12 of the United States Code, section §1813(a)(3).

That section gives an entirely different meaning to the word “state,” which it says “means any State of the United States, the District of Columbia, any territory of the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands.”

Notice one significant difference: use of the phrase “the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands,” not otherwise defined. Complicating the matter further: an historical note in title 48 of the U.S. Code Annotated, which covers the Pacific Trust Territories. The note speaks of the past, even though FDIC regulations covering them lay in the future.

“With the entry into effect of the Compact with Palau, the Trusteeship of the Pacific Islands was terminated. See Proclamations of President Reagan (Proc. No. 5564, Nov. 3, 1986, 51 F.R. 40399) and President Clinton (Proc. No. 6726, Sept. 27, 1994, 59 F.R. 49777).”

Federated States of Micronesia that make up the Pacific Trust Territories consists of four states: Chuuk (Truk), Kosrae (Kosaie), Pohnpei (Ponape) and Yap. Of these, the stone money of Yap is familiar to many numismatists.

Taken literally, it is possible to argue that not only should there be a “Federated States of Micronesia” coin, the coinage for the “Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands,” and perhaps the trust territory have components, for each of them as well.

It becomes more complicated because of the language in the new law calls for National Parks, national forests, sites within the National Wildlife Refuge System and those on the National Register of Historic Places – any national site – to be given consideration as part of the design process.

National site (a separately defined word) means it is “under the supervision, management, or conservancy of the National Park Service, the United States Forest Service, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, or any similar department or agency of the federal government, including any national park, national monument, national battlefield, national military park, national historical park, national historic site, national lakeshore, seashore, recreation area, parkway, scenic river, or trail and any site in the National Wildlife Refuge System.”

What does that translate to? There are 548 national wildlife refuges in all 50 states.

There are also 37 Wetland Management Districts in the Prairie Pothole region of the northern Great Plains. The next surprise: there is the Pacific Remote Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex is a group of unorganized, unincorporated – or in the case of Palmyra Atoll, incorporated – American Pacific Island territories managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service of the United States Department of the Interior.

The most elementary rule in legislative drafting is to be repetitive. The presumption therefore is that by choosing a reference to the FDIC the drafter understood the consequences of the change and intended a much larger program than many originally thought.

Since there were no hearings held on this matter, more explanatory material provided, we are left to conclude the program scope has been altered and American collectors will be discussing just how many coins were intended for quite a while.

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