PHOENIX — It may be time for Arizonans who have invested in gold and silver to take their stockpiles of coins out of hiding and get ready to put them to use.
If some of the state’s more conservative politicians get their way, someday soon shoppers could conceivably be able to plunk down precious metal to pay for groceries, buy a new car or pay a traffic fine.
Arizona is on track to become the second state in the nation to recognize gold and silver coins as legal tender. It would join Utah as part of a conservative movement arising out of a lack of confidence in the Federal Reserve and a fear that paper money could become virtually worthless as U.S. debt deflates the value of the dollar.
Supporters consider the move a potential financial savior and envision a day when residents can carry debit cards funded by the gold they hold in special depositories.
Miles Lester, who represents a group called Arizona Constitutional Advocates, said during a recent public hearing on legal-tender legislation that “the dollar is on its way out. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”
Economists question the stability of gold and silver as an alternative for currency, noting that the value of gold in particular has tumbled precipitously in just the past week. Opponents call the movement crazy, a waste of legislative time and nearly impossible to implement. Utah has had the law on its books for two years and still has no organized system for spending and accepting gold and silver.
“Stop messing with this thing that does nothing but divide people,” Democratic state Sen. Steve Farley said. “We’ve got real work we should be doing down here.”
Senate Bill 1439 would authorize the use of coins or bullion containing gold or silver to pay a debt. The coins must have been issued by the U.S. government or approved by a court, such as the American eagle gold-bullion coin. But no person would be required to use or accept gold or silver as legal tender.
The bill still needs a final vote in the Senate before going to Gov. Jan Brewer. It has not yet been scheduled for a vote, but after being approved by the House, it is expected to pass.
If it becomes law, it would not go into effect after the 2014 legislative session. Republican Sen. Chester Crandell, the bill’s sponsor, said that gives the Legislature time to pass additional bills next session dealing with implementation. SB 1439 is just the first step, he said.
“Arizona needs to be proactive in providing opportunities for those who have been saving gold,” he said.
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