State Legislators unofficial Special Session

Rep. Heather Scott addresses a group of fellow lawmakers during a self-described “special session” at the Idaho State Capitol, Tuesday, June 23, 2020.

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BOISE — An effort to preserve the sanctity of cash from anti-bacterial fanatics took center stage in the House State Affairs Committee on Friday.

Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, sponsored legislation requiring all Idaho businesses to accept cash as a method of payment, without exception.

She said the bill was prompted by retail firms that refused to take cash during the coronavirus pandemic.

“With the COVID crisis, there’s been so many businesses saying ‘credit card only,’ or ‘no cash allowed,’ ” she said. “There’s actually been some cases where businesses say they don’t do change any more. I had Walmarts in my district refuse to give change. I just want to guarantee Idaho citizens that they can use legal tender at businesses.”

Committee members wondered how the proposal would work for different types of businesses.

“What I worry about is the large transactions,” said Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian. “Are we going to force car dealers to have $100,000 in cash sitting there if they sell a vehicle? It’s going to force them to have a secure system to protect that. And you don’t want to be transporting that to the bank by yourself, so they’re going to have to hire an armored truck.”

Rep. Jason Monks, R-Meridian, brought up online retailers.

“What if there’s a retail store in Meridian and I live in Lewiston, or they don’t have a retail store at all and do everything online?” he asked. “Are we going to require them to accept cash? I’m just trying to make sure we don’t have to mail money.”

Scott admitted she hadn’t thought through all of these scenarios.

“I don’t have a great answer for you,” she told Monks. “There are cases, some people who don’t have credit cards or who shouldn’t have credit cards. We want to protect those minority groups. This doesn’t force them to use cash, but it does (require businesses to accept cash) if a willing buyer wants to pay cash. I don’t know. That might be something that needs a deeper look.”

Rep. Rod Furniss, R-Rigby, suggested the free market was capable of handling this issue on its own, without need for government regulation.

“Let capitalism work through this process,” he said. “If a business doesn’t want to take cash, post that on the door. You don’t have to do business with them.”

Scott, a far-right Republican who is typically very jealous of state prerogatives, cited federal law as a reason for supporting the bill.

“The Coinage Act of 1965 says U.S. coins and currency are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes and dues,” she said. “To stay in line with that — unless we get rid of the Coinage Act — we can’t go down this road where we have businesses that are denying cash. It’s discriminatory.”

Furniss made a motion to kill the bill, but the committee rejected that action and voted to introduce the legislation. It will now come back for a public hearing.

House State Affairs Chairman Brent Crane, R-Nampa, said he wants to hear what retailers have to say about the proposal.

“It’s a worthy discussion,” he said.

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