New Authorization Rules for Commemorative Coinage


Coin Legislation on Capital BuildingChaired by Representative Barney Frank, D-Mass, the 70-member House Financial Services Committee has adopted new rules that will make it significantly harder to authorize new commemorative coins and Congressional Gold Medals.

The House of Representatives, and its committees, routinely sets new rules to determine how it will operate. This particular change is intended to prevent multiple random proposals from overwhelming members of Congress. Instead the rules will allow a declaration of "Out of Order" on any commemorative coin or Congressional Gold Medal suggestion that does not meet the criteria that was pre-defined and accepted by the entire committee.

Rule #1 states "It shall not be in order for the Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology to hold a hearing on any commemorative medal or commemorative coin legislation unless the legislation is cosponsored by at least two-thirds of the members of the House."

This requires that a minimum of 290 members of the House either co-sponsor legislation for the new coin or medal, or sign a discharge petition making it available for deliberation on the floor without the approval of the committee. By requiring a majority of House members to support a new coin design, frivolous subjects should be eliminated/reduced and only designs deemed credible will be considered.

The second part of the new special procedures requires that " It shall not be in order for the subcommittee to approve a bill or measure authorizing commemorative coins for consideration by the full committee which does not conform with the mintage restrictions established by section 5112 of title 31, United States Code."

This codified law basically requires that all new coins considered must be of the same denominations as those approved if in that code. Examples of these are the $1 coin, the quarter dollar, the dime, etc. This prevents odd denominations such as a $7 coin from appearing.

When it comes to the Congressional Gold Medals, new rules place the following restrictions:

(1)"the recipient shall be a natural person" – It must be a real person and not an organization.

(2)" the recipient shall have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement" – This will require recipients to have accomplished an achievement in their field worthy of acclaim by all.

(3)"the recipient shall not have received a medal previously for the same or substantially the same achievement" – quite obvious, only one medal per person per achievement.

(4) "the recipient shall be living or, if deceased, shall have been deceased for not less than 5 years and not more than 25 years" – This requirement limits Congress to giving a medal only to those alive, or posthumously to those who died more than 5 years ago, but not more than 25 years.

(5) "the achievements were performed in the recipient’s field of endeavor, and represent either a lifetime of continuous superior achievements or a single achievement so significant that the recipient is recognized and acclaimed by others in the same field, as evidenced by the recipient having received the highest honors in the field." This dictates that recipients must be acclaimed by the peers in their field for their achievements, and not just by the public in general.

These new rules should help to insure that new coin designs and Congressional Medal recipients are exceptionally worthy of admiration by everyone.

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