During a House subcommittee hearing held in July, the Director of the United States Mint had requested that Congress delegate authority to the Secretary of the Treasury to select coin compositions. A bill recently introduced by the head of the subcommittee instead seeks to impose greater Congressional oversight of coin production. The Treasury of the Secretary would be granted authority to perform “research and development” necessary to make recommendations to Congress related to coin compositions.
The recent focus on the composition of circulating U.S. coins comes as the cost of the two lowest denominations has exceeded face value for the past four fiscal years. As the cost of base metals has increased, other countries including Canada and the UK have explored or approved composition changes for circulating coins.
The bill H.R. 6162 Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act of 2010 seems to open the door to possible composition changes, but Congress would retain the authority to make such changes.
The Secretary of the Treasury would be granted authority to conduct testing of coinage metallic materials, as well as solicit input from entities within or outside the Federal Government. In conducting these tests and soliciting input, the Secretary would be required to consider the interests of parties who would be impacted by the changes, including current coinage material providers, vending machine operators and manufacturers, municipal parking officials, car wash operators, and a variety of other enumerated parties.
The purpose of the research and development activities would be to provide a biennial report to the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. The report would analyze the costs of producing each circulating coin, cost trends for production, and possible new metallic materials or technologies. The Secretary of the Treasury may make recommendations for changes to metallic content of circulating coins or changes in methods of production that would improve efficiency.
The first report would be provided before the end of the two year period after the date of enactment, with subsequent reports provided at two year intervals.
The bill H.R. 6162 has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. In order for the bill to become law, it must be passed in the House and Senate, and then signed by the President.
The bill also makes amendments to existing law, which might provide for the striking of 2010 Proof Silver Eagles. See related story: Legislation Would Permit Proof Silver Eagles