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More quarters may be added

A bill has once again been introduced to extend the 50 state quarter program through 2009.
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In what may be the last chance before the state quarter program ends next year, in 2008, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., introduced H.R. 392 on Jan. 11 to authorize the equivalent of an add-on to the 50 state quarter program of Washington, D.C., and five American trust territories.

The Washington quarter is one of five quarters for 2007 in the original 50 State Quarter program.

The bill has seven co-sponsors and was referred to the House Committee on Financial Services, chaired by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.

Co-sponsored by Frank and Rep. Madeleine Z. Bordello, D-Guam, Rep. Michael N. Castle, R-Del., Rep. Donna M. Christensen, D-Virgin Islands, Rep. Eni F.S. Faleomavaega, D-American Samoa, Rep. Luis G. Fortuno, D-Puerto Rico, and Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., the bill?s heavyweight sponsorship is seen as a good omen to those seeking to extend the program to 56 coin issues.

Frank chairs the parent unit; Gutierrez is a ranking member who will be a subcommittee chair ? possibly the coinage subcommittee ? Castle is the GOP sponsor of the state quarter program and former subcommittee chair in a prior Congress.

Trust territories that would join the existing 50 state quarter program are American Samoa, American Virgin Islands, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Washington, in the District of Columbia, rounds out the selection.

The measure is the same as one that passed the House in the closing minutes of the 109th Congress, only to expire before it hit the Senate floor.

If the District of Columbia or any territory becomes a state, then they go to the front of the line for this program, and the end of the line for the 50-state program, following Hawaii, which entered the Union in mid-1959. If any territory becomes independent or otherwise ceases to be a territory or possession of the United States before quarter dollars bearing designs emblematic of that territory are minted, no coins will be produced for it.

When the 50-state quarter program came up for its original vote, Holmes-Norton asked Castle during floor debate to include the District of Columbia. Washington, D.C., residents vote for President and have three electoral votes, but their congressional delegate has been non-voting until this year,

Castle promised to include Washington in the ?next? coin bill, but that fell flat when the Senate refused to act, probably because of unrelated issues concerning the Northern Marianas Islands. After two years of hectoring by Holmes-Norton, on Sept. 19, 2000, the House overwhelmingly voted (with a mere six dissenting votes) to create a separate Washington, D.C., and trust territories program that would begin in 2009 and form in essence an 11th year to the state quarter program, for a total of 56 coins.

That went nowhere, too.

With Democrats in charge of the House and Senate for the first time in a dozen years, there is a possibility for dispositive action. Only time will tell.