In case you missed it, the Montana House of Representatives had a highly entertaining debate on a measure to require the state to back transactions of state business with gold and silver coin.
The measure narrowly fell on a 52-48 vote.
Wagner said the bill would protect “honest money” from “political manipulation and value.”
“To return to this system of honest value, former Federal Reserve Chairman Allen Greenspan suggested that a system would be needed to developed to operate in a dual currency,” Wagner said.
Democrats openly mocked the bill during house debate, offering a pair of amendments aimed at ridiculing the bill.
Rep. Dick Barrett, D-Missoula, wondered if taxpayers would still file their income tax returns using dollars.
“If I’m filling out my income tax return, that’s still going to be done in dollars, is it not?” Barrett asked.
“Actually Rep. Barrett it’s going to be done in Federal Reserve note equivalents,” Wagner said.
At that point laughter began rippling through the House chamber.
“By Federal Reserve note equivalents do you mean what most of us mean by the term dollars?” Barrett asked.
After a lengthy pause, and a mild scolding from the chair for addressing Rep. Barrett as “Mr. Barrett,” Wagner responded:
“Mr. Chairman, Rep. Barrett, Article 1 section10 in the…Coinage Act, April 2, 1792, states the definition of a dollar. I don’t know what other people to know as to be a dollar, but that’s probably the problem in this bill.”
After a discussion about how tax return forms will look if the bill is passed, Barrett offered an amendment to allow the state to back transactions with coal.
“What this bill provides for is for the payment of taxes in-kind. Or for the receipt of payment from the governor in-kind. It’s a little bit like the old days when you paid the school teacher with chickens,” Barrett said. “There’s no particular reason why we should restrict payments in kind to one particular commodity like gold. In fact all this amendment does is suggest we should expand those possibilities.”
Barrett said if it’s a good idea to pay taxes in-kind, then why not pay taxes in coal?
Snickers could be heard throughout the House chamber, and some representatives covered their faces with bills so as not to be seen on camera smiling and laughing.
Rep. Pat Noonan, D-Butte, offered a similar amendment, but this time the state would back transactions in copper instead of gold or silver.
“When Butte prospers, Montana prospers and that’s why I think it’s in the best interest of Montana to go to a copper standard. Please make like oxidized copper and go green,” Noonan said.
Again, laughter from the floor.
Some Republicans didn’t find the floor debate so funny.
Wagner was among them.
“This reminds me of the bullying bill we had before (the House Education) committee the other day. However, I will not be bullied,” Wagner said.
Rep. Dan Kennedy said he didn’t find the Constitution funny at all.
“And to read out of it it exactly it says no state shall enter into any treaty, alliance or confederation grant and coin money emit make things but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debt,” Kennedy said.
The actual language of Article 1 Section 10 that Kennedy referenced says:
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
Both amendments failed on mostly party-line votes.
The Twitterverse had a heyday with during the debate. If you’d like to see all of the tweets from the #mtleg hashtag, click the link below to view the Sortify story.
I’ll post video from the debate once it loads.