A state senator in Arizona has introduced a bill that would make bitcoin legal tender in the state — although federal law could complicate things.
Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers (R., District 6) introduced the bill, which seeks to add a statute to Arizona law making bitcoin a legal currency, on Tuesday. There was a second reading on the senate floor Wednesday. If and when a vote might take place has not yet been disclosed.
The US Constitution might make passing the bill a challenge, though, cryptocurrency law experts say.
“The Coinage Clause of the Constitution means that the power to determine what is and isn’t legal tender in the United States is the exclusive province of Congress,” said Preston Byrne, partner at law firm Anderson Kill. “If enacted, [the bill] would be largely symbolic.”
In the 1800s, states tried to work around the Coinage Clause by issuing their own “state bank notes,” but they had little success. In the National Bank Acts of 1865 and 1866, Congress effectively put an end to the practice by placing a 10% tax on payments made in currency other than national bank notes.
“Aside from the legality though, it begs the question of whether digital assets are actually ‘currencies’ or forms of ‘money,’” said Steve Gannon, attorney at Murphy and McGonigle.
“In addition, for what purposes would Arizona be accepting digital assets as ‘legal tender?’ If it is simply another method of payment with respect to state contracts, that may be a limited use case that is worth an experiment.”
Even if the bill becomes law in Arizona, it’s unlikely to have much impact on usage of bitcoin in the state, Byrne said.
“Arizona could certainly pass a law like this and the state government could choose to accept bitcoin as payment for Arizona taxes, but this would not change the legal treatment of Bitcoin as property from a federal tax perspective,” said Byrne.
“I also don’t think such a law could obligate Arizonans to accept bitcoin in a constitutionally acceptable way.”
The introduction of the bill follows Rogers’ promise to make Arizona a crypto-friendly state. In September 2021, she was appointed to the Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Study Committee, she announced on Twitter.
The committee consists of members from the Arizona state House and Senate as well as digital asset industry members and advocates. The group seeks to “review data on the scope of blockchain and cryptocurrency throughout the country” and determine how the technology can play into Arizona’s existing financial infrastructure, according to government documents.
Senator Rogers’ office did not immediately respond to Blockworks’ request for comment.
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