February 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

Augustus Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site

Although the first two bills do not have numismatic content, given the stature of Augustus Saint-Gaudens in the numismatic community, I am including them in the numismatic legislation watch.

S. 312: Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act
Sponsor: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
• To redesignate the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site as the “Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park”
• Introduced: February 6, 2017
• Referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S312.

H.R. 965: Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act
Sponsor: Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH)
• To redesignate the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site as the “Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park”
• Introduced: February 7, 2017
• Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR1235.

H.R. 1235: Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA)
• Introduced: February 27, 2017
• Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services

Track this bill at http://bit.ly/115-HR1235.

Image courtesy of the National Parks Service.

January 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

New congress means a new round of legislation. We begin the new congress with a new historical celebration commission, a commemorative bill, and what looks like a future quarter design bill.

H.R. 66: Route 66 Centennial Commission Act
Sponsor: Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL)
• Introduced: January 3, 2017
• Bill to create to create a celebratory commission whose job will include suggesting commemorative coins
• Referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR66.

S. 579: Muhammad Ali Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY)
• Introduced: January 13, 2017
• Referred to the House Financial Services Committee

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR579.

S. 166: Muhammad Ali Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
• Introduced: January 17, 2017
• Referred to the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S166.

H.R. 770: To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in recognition of American innovation and significant innovation and pioneering efforts of individuals or groups from each of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories, to promote the importance of innovation in the United States, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT)
• Introduced: January 31, 2017
• Referred to the House Financial Services Committee

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR770.

December 2016 Legislative Review and the end of the 114th Congress

While trying to find the right words to describe 2016 and the anticipation for 2017, I came across a quote from an 1898 speech by British statesman Joseph Chamberlain, father of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain:

I think that you will all agree that we are living in most interesting times. (Hear, hear.) I never remember myself a time in which our history was so full, in which day by day brought us new objects of interest, and, let me say also, new objects for anxiety. (Hear, hear.)

Although working on numismatic-related legislation was not expected during this lame duck session, congress surprised everyone and passed a bill that I really wanted to see passed. Considering the country’s history of the time, there is nothing more iconic than Apollo 11’s trip to the moon. It is the single event that inspired my life in technology.

Public Law No. 114-282: Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL)
• Introduced: June 10, 2015 as H.R. 2726
• Passed the House: December 5, 2016
• Passed the Senate: December 10, 2016
• Signed by the President: December 16, 2016

See the final text of the law at http://bit.ly/114-HR2726.

The 115th Congress of the United States will officially convene at noon on January 3, 2017. The 45th president will take office at noon on January 20, 2017. We are living in most interesting times with new objects for anxiety.

Save now for the 2019 Apollo 11 Commemorative Coins

Artist’s conception of the common reverse for the 2019 Apollo 11 commemorative coin program.

Every year since coming into office, President Barack Obama and his family packs up and flies to Hawaii for an end of the year vacation. Obama was born in Hawaii and still has some family on Oahu. Before leaving Washington, he will sign whatever bills are sent to him by congress. According to the White House News Feed, President Obama signed the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act on Friday, December 16, 2016!

Based on my posts from the last few weeks, I am sure you can tell I have a fascination with space. In fact, if there is such thing as reincarnation, I want to come back in the future to be able to travel around the universe in a manner similar to what we see in the movies. It is sad that there is no real enthusiasm for space exploration as there was when Apollo 11 landed on the moon!

In July 1969, my family lived in the Long Island suburbs of New York. The year before Apollo 11, my father bought a new, large RCA color television. Aside from learning that the beginning and end of Wizard of Oz was in black-and-white, I was able to watch the launches of the world’s largest Roman candle, the Saturn V rocket. Before Skylab and the Shuttle programs, it was a marvel of human achievement. I loved watching the liftoffs from Cape Kennedy and always wanted to go see one in person. I never did get to see a rocket launched, but I hope to some day.

This was a time when kids went outside to play, even in the summer evenings. We played a lot of baseball-related games including setting up a “field” in the street. Nobody was in the street. We were all home watching television and watching overhead shots of Mission Control in Houston. Even through the television, you could sense the tension until Neil Armstrong announced, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. TheEagle has landed.”

It wasn’t until years later when I learned more about the Cold War when I understood why it was more important for the United States to land and walk on the moon first. All I knew was it was very cool that an American was up there. It made Star Trek seem possible!

The moon walk was Monday night. Again, we were staring at the television watching the enactments as to what to expect. There were mockups of the Lunar Module and astronauts demonstrating what Armstrong was supposed to do. I remember the concentration on the “D-Ring,” the D-shaped handle that Armstrong had to pull on to open the door that had the camera. There was a question that the ring had to survive the landing and that the door could have jammed. We would have a historical moment without it being recorded on video!

“These are the first pictures ever broadcast from the moon,” was the words by whoever was on television. I remember the words but not who said them. Pulling on the D-ring worked and the world was watching. We watched as Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder onto the surface of the moon. After a brief stop to remove the cover on the plaque that was attached to the ladder, Armstrong put both feet on the footpad of the lunar module. After a quick bounce step from the footpad to the surface of the moon, Armstrong gave his famous like, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

There has been a “controversy” about whether Armstrong said “… one small step for man,” or “… one small step for a man.” Whatever is the correct version does not take away from the feat and the fact that Neil Armstrong was the first human being to set foot on Earth’s only natural satellite!

While NASA was the inspiration for many of the modern technologies we enjoy today, only Apollo 11 took it to the level of defining U.S. technology. While Skylab and the Shuttle programs were far more advanced, Apollo 11 stands as one of the 20th-century’s most amazing feats.

Needless to say, I am excited!

  • Commemorative program issued in 2019
  • Required design elements:
    • Convex in shape “to more closely resemble the faceplate of the astronaut’s helmet of the time”
    • “The Secretary shall hold a juried, compensated competition to determine the design of the common obverse of the coins minted under this Act, with such design being emblematic of the United States space program leading up to the first manned Moon landing.”
    • Winning designer to receive no less than $5,000 for their design.
    • Common reverse design “shall be a representation of a close-up of the famous ‘Buzz Aldrin on the Moon’ photograph taken July 20, 1969, showing just the visor and part of the helmet of astronaut Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, in which the visor reflects the image of the United States flag, astronaut Neil Armstrong, and the lunar lander.”
  • Mintage Limit: 50,000 $5 gold; 400,000 silver dollars; 750,000 clad half-dollar; 100,000 five-ounce silver proof dollars
  • Surcharges of $35 per $5 gold; $10 per silver dollar; $5 per half-dollar; and $50 per five-ounce bullion.
  • Payouts: 50-percent to Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum’s “Destination Moon” exhibit; 25-percent to the Astronauts Memorial Foundation; and 25-percent to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.
I may not be much of an artist but I can play a little with Photoshop!

Apollo 11 commem bill passes Senate

On Friday, December 9, during an early evening session under suspension of the rules, the Senate passed the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 2726). Since the bill was passed in the evening, it will be engrossed.

When a bill from congress is passed it is then engrossed. Engrossing a bill is the formal printing of the bill parchment or other paper of suitable quality, signed by the Speaker of the House and the designated presiding officer of the Senate (either the Vice President, President Pro-tempore, or the Majority Leader), and then sent to the White House for the President’s signature. When the president signs the engrossed bill, it then becomes law and given a Public Law number. The Public Law number is made up of the session congress, 114 as the 114th congress, and a sequence number.

I suspect that before the end of the week, the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act will be the law!

House passes Apollo 11 commem bill

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon

“Buzz Aldrin on the Moon” taken July 20, 1969 by Neil Armstrong

Under a motion to suspend the rules and pass as agreed, the House of Representatives passed by unanimous consent the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 2726) during an afternoon session on December 5, 2016.

Apollo 11 has to be one of the top defining events of the 20th century. It captured the imagination of not only the United States but the world in a way nothing else could. Landing on the moon and having the Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins safely return to earth using the technology of the day was a feat beyond imagination. And getting there before the blasted Soviets after they beat us into space for quite a number of years was also a big deal during the Cold War.

Now that the bill has passed, it is formally enrolled and signed by the Speaker of the House. It is sent to the Senate for their consideration. Hopefully, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will put it on the schedule and get this passed without issue.

In case you forgot, here is what the bill requires for the Apollo 11 commemorative coins:

  • Commemorative program issued in 2019
  • Required design elements:
    • Convex in shape “to more closely resemble the faceplate of the astronaut’s helmet of the time”
    • “The Secretary shall hold a juried, compensated competition to determine the design of the common obverse of the coins minted under this Act, with such design being emblematic of the United States space program leading up to the first manned Moon landing.”
    • Winning designer to receive no less than $5,000 for their design.
    • Common reverse design “shall be a representation of a close-up of the famous ‘Buzz Aldrin on the Moon’ photograph taken July 20, 1969, showing just the visor and part of the helmet of astronaut Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, in which the visor reflects the image of the United States flag, astronaut Neil Armstrong, and the lunar lander.”
  • Mintage Limit: 50,000 $5 gold; 400,000 silver dollars; 750,000 clad half-dollar; 100,000 five-ounce silver proof dollars
  • Surcharges of $35 per $5 gold; $10 per silver dollar; $5 per half-dollar; and $50 per five-ounce bullion.
  • Payouts: 50-percent to Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum’s “Destination Moon” exhibit; 25-percent to the Astronauts Memorial Foundation; and 25-percent to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

I am saving my pennies. I want a complete set!

November 2016 Numismatic-related Legislation Review

I begin every month with a review of the numismatic-related legislation that occurred in the previous month. Although congress returned to work on November 14, not much has been done. The services I subscribe to so that I can receive alerts on votes or signed legislation shows not much has been done except for a few bills that have unanimous support or asks to rename a building, park, or some other federal property in the name of a hometown hero.

Given the results of the election, sources say that the partisan rancor is so fervent that even the most cordial relationships have turned icy. These feelings are not limited to cross-party relationships. There is a growing divide between ideological members in both parties that could almost split the congress into four parties. Many are predicting more gridlock ahead—as if there was not gridlock in the past.

I continue to hope that congress can see past their personal issues and do something right like pass a commemorative coin program for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. If you have to name the top defining events of the 20th century, Apollo 11 has to be on that list.

Post election numismatic analysis

Rhett Jeppson, nominated to be the 39th Director of the U.S. Mint

Rhett Jeppson, nominated to be the 39th Director of the U.S. Mint

Most of the votes have been counted. Electors to the Electoral College have been selected. The post-election analysis is in high gear. Why not add the numismatic twist to the environment.

The immediate impact of the election results is that Rhett Jeppson will not be confirmed to become the Director of the U.S. Mint. Even though the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing for his nomination on March 15, the chance of the GOP-led Senate confirming any of President Obama’s appointment nominations are non-existent.

Jeppson was hired in January 2015 as Principal Deputy Director. Jeppson was hired as a member of the government’s Senior Executive Service (SES) program. In July, it was announced that Jeppson would be nominated as the Director. Since the nomination will likely die in committee, Jeppson will remain on the U.S. Mint staff as a government employee. Although he has not announced his intentions, Jeppson is likely to continue as Principal Deputy Director.

It is unlikely that the next administration will nominate Jeppson or anyone in the near future. Considering that there has not been political appointee running the U.S. Mint since January 2011, maybe President Obama could use his power to convert the term appointment into a permanent government employee. This way, the U.S. Mint can be run by competent managers rather than a pol who might do something like not ordering enough planchets to maintain a major bullion program.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is not affected by a change in administrations because the position of the director is a permanent government employee. Len Olijar will remain Director of the BEP as long as he is a government employee in good standing.

As for any of the pending legislation, do not count on anything being passed. Given the results of the election, sources say that the partisan rancor is so fervent that even the most cordial relationships have turned icy. These feelings are not limited to cross-party relationships. There is a growing divide between ideological members in both parties that could almost split the congress into four parties.

To suggest that the partisan bickering to escalate during the lame duck session would be an understatement. Remember, congress passed a continuing resolution, not a real budget, in late September that will expire on December 9. If a budget is not passed by December 9 then the government will have to be shutdown.

The 114th congress will adjourn being one of the most ineffective congress on record.

For the 115th congress that will convene on January 3, 2017, there will be 239 Republicans and 193 Democrats with three runoffs pending (two in Louisiana). Although the Republicans lost 7 total seats, they continue to hold a majority. Currently, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) is the Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services. Although it is not known if Hensarling will remain as chair of this committee, it is likely the new leadership will continue the previous policies. If the attitudes of this committee do not change, there may be very few commemorative coin programs that get through this committee.

Although revenue generating bills are required to be introduced in the House of Representatives (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 4), the Senate has been known to introduce commemorative coin bills without argument from their House counterparts. For the 115th congress, the Senate will have 51 Republicans and 48 Democrats with a runoff in Louisiana scheduled for December 10. However, Senate rules make the composition somewhat irrelevant because of their ability to filibuster.

Under the Senate’s filibuster rules (Senate Rule XXII), a senator can inform the presiding member that they intend to filibuster the debate. At that point, the presiding member will set the bill aside to allow other business to continue because the Senate can only work on one item at a time. This means that a filibuster stops all other floor actions. By setting the bill aside and not bringing it to the floor, this allows for other senate business to continue while the leadership tries to gather support for a cloture vote.

Cloture, or closure, is the act to end the free-flow debate of the senate and apply restrictions, such as a 30 hour limit on debate. Cloture requires a three-fifths vote of the senate (60 votes) to agree on cloture. Anyone who remembers some of the past discussions on the composition of the senate, when one party controls 60 seats, they called that a “filibuster-proof majority.” Otherwise, any senator can threaten a filibuster and have that measure buried.

Although it is unlikely that the senate would filibuster the vote on a commemorative coin bill, but it would be obstructed by the another bill ahead of it in the queue.

Even though I would like for the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 2726 and S. 2957) to pass, I will not be holding my breath during the lame duck session this year or a new version introduced anytime next year.

October 2016 Numismatic-related Legislation Review

I don’t know about you, but I am ready for this campaign to be over!

Congress has not been in session because the members are in their states and districts either campaigning to maintain their seats or, in the case of the senate, helping their colleagues in their elections.

I have a few friends who work on Capitol Hill and they are tired of these campaigns. During a recent meet-up for dinner, that expanded by the time we reached dessert, over a dozen staffers from both sides of the aisle are now considering employment outside of Washington. Everyone agree that the work environment on Capitol Hill has turned toxic. The partisanship has caused even the most cordial relationships to become strained. And this is not limited to cross-party relationships. Differences between the chambers and the leadership are straining relationships.

Everyone expects the partisan bickering to escalate during the lame duck session and for congress to adjourn shortly after a budget is passed. I still wish they would consider something for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. Both S. 2957 and H.R. 2726 have been introduced by members from Florida. Maybe congress can see their way to do something right, for a change!

Otherwise, since congress was not in Washington, there were no bills introduced or acted upon.

“Buzz Aldrin on the Moon” taken July 20, 1969

“Buzz Aldrin on the Moon” taken July 20, 1969

September 2016 Numismatic-related Legislation

Congress returned to work right after Labor Day, not that you would have noticed. Aside from the legislation that renames most offices or other federal structures in honor of someone most of us have never hear about, congress was locked in a battle over the federal budget that was to expire on September 30. Of course, the fights were based on partisan politics. Rather than doing what is right for the nation, these hacks broke down into partisan bickering. A continuing resolution, not a real budget, was passed on September 29. They have until December 9 to fix their problems.

In another part of my life, I write a monthly newsletter for the Gold & Silver Political Action Committee. The PAC was started by former American Numismatic Association President Barry Stuppler to help be a voice for issues facing the numismatic and bullion industry. As part of my research into issues, I speak with staffers and other contacts on Capitol Hill to provide background information on the PAC’s issues.

This past month I used an opportunity to have a discussion about the state of congress with two lobbyists. Both are former staffers working with members on opposite sides of the aisle and have been working in the halls of congress since early in the Clinton administration. Neither were optimistic that congress would accomplish anything, even during the lame duck session after the election. With the budget battle looming and the unsettle Supreme Court nomination, neither of these professionals were optimistic.

For some of us, watching congress is a sport. While it might be as painful as watching the 1962 New York Mets or the 2003 Detroit Tigers or waiting for the Cubs to win the World Series, I will continue to report potential legislation that may affect modern collecting.

Only one bill was introduced in September:

H.R. 6025 American Innovation $1 Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. James Himes (D-CT)
• Summary: Redesign and issuance of $1 coins honoring innovation, innovators, and pioneers from each State, the District of Columbia, and each territory.
• Introduced: September 14, 2016
• Referred to the House Financial Services Committee

This bill can be tracked at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr6025.

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