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Quarter legislation fails

Congress failed to approve legislation authorizing special quarter designs in honor of the District of Columbia and five trust territories.

In the wee morning hours of Dec. 9, as the last sands of the 109th Congress slipped through the hourglass, the House of Representatives for the fourth time in the last eight years passed an extension to the state quarter program to add in Washington, D.C., and five trust territories.

With the legislation passed, at 2:30 a.m., the action shifted to the Senate, which acknowledged receipt of the legislative proposal, H.R. 3885, and then let the falling grains empty the vessel, as they voted to adjourn sine die, at 3:30 a.m., and to reconvene as a 110th Congress this coming Jan. 4, 2007.

Come January, the 110th Congress ? the body reconstitutes itself every two years, ? starts anew, and all old bills are discarded. For the proposal to become law, both the Senate and House must vote on the same bill, approve identical language, and then receive presidential signature.

The House passed H.R. 5010 in the 106th Congress, H.R. 4005 in the 107th Congress, H.R. 2993 in the 107th Congress, and H.R. 3885 on Dec. 9. The Senate Banking Committee had no comparable bill before it in this session.

The legislation provides for inclusion of a circulating quarter dollar coin program for the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Legislation moved because on Dec. 7,  Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., former chair of the coinage subcommittee and principal sponsor of the underlying legislation jumped in as a co-sponsor to the measure introduced in this session by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.  

H.R. 3885 would add an 11th year to the existing 10-year program, currently slated to terminate in 2008.  Six additional coins would be struck the following year, presumably at the rate of about one in eight weeks, compared to the rate now employed of approximately one every 10 weeks.

The legislative initiative refers to a 10-week production cycle, leading to the possible interpretation that some of the coins could be struck in a 12th year (using a 2009 date), or that the Mint would shift some production resources to gain an additional number of coins in the  manufacturing process.

Already, the 50-state program is the most successful commemorative coin program in history, with almost 140 million Americans collecting the state quarters as they are produced by the U.S. Mint.

Hearings on the earlier measure, H.R. 5010, were held Sept. 7, 2000,  before the House coinage subcommittee. Though called an entirely separate program, officially the ?District of Columbia and United States Territories
Circulating Quarter Dollar Program Act,? most collectors spoken to have viewed the extension as a logical one to the state quarters program, and anticipate collecting them that way.

Under the 50-state quarter program, the U.S. Mint currently issues five new commemorative quarters each year honoring the states in order of admission to the Union.  An additional six coins would start at the conclusion of the state program in 2009.

Extension legislation would require that the new coins be issued in equal sequential intervals during 2009 in the following order: the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

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