The identity bill to force companies to accept cash has merits

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Should Idaho businesses be required to accept cash as a form of payment?

This is the interesting question that could be brought before the Idaho Legislature.

Representative Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, introduced a bill last week stating that “a person doing business as a seller in this state must accept cash as a method of payment as well as any other form of payment the seller does can accept “.

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Scott McIntosh is the Idaho Statesman opinion writer.

The House State Affairs Committee agreed to print the bill, House Bill 256, after a heated discussion on its merits.

At first glance, it seems like a silly thing. After all, we’re heading towards a cashless society, aren’t we?

Some of us of a certain age may remember making sure that we were never, ever without cash in our pocket or wallet. I remember that feeling of panic if I ran out of money in my wallet.

Today, however? I rarely carry cash. I sometimes feel old just using a credit card instead of a smartphone with an e-wallet.

Scott’s bill, too, seems odd to a place like Idaho and to a lawmaker like Scott. Asking the government to tell a company what it can or cannot do was a point of contention for Rep. Ron Furniss, R-Rigby, who is an insurance agent.

He said he worked with grocery stores that said managing cash was one of their biggest costs in doing business. If a business decides to completely reduce that cost, he argued, the government shouldn’t be telling it how to operate.

“Make capitalism work through this process,” Furniss told the committee. “So the government steps in, says you have to take the money. Why not let the free market worry about it, and if a business doesn’t want to have the money and put it on their doorstep. “

To counter this, Scott cited the Federal Currency Act of 1965 which states that “US coins and currency are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes and dues.”

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representing Heather Scott, R-Blanchard. Idaho State Legislature in 2020. Katherine Jones [email protected]

Scott also argued that his bill is intended to protect people who do not use credit cards.

“There are a lot of cases where some people don’t have a credit card, or shouldn’t have a credit card at all,” Scott said. “And so we want to protect minority groups that they can do that (pay cash). It doesn’t force them to use cash, but it does force (cash acceptance) if that’s the only method and a willing buyer wants to pay with cash. “

Scott is not the only one concerned by the question. Concerns about a so-called “cashless society” are not new and are not confined to Idaho or even the United States.

In 2018, a group of Democratic and Independent Council members in Washington, DC presented the Prohibition of Cashless Retailers Act, which would have made it illegal for restaurants and retailers not to accept cash or charge customers a different price based on the type of payment they use. The bill failed that year.

In Britain, a 2018 report, “Is Britain ready to go cashless?“Shown that despite the increasing use of cards and electronic payments, around 8 million people (17% of the population) said cash was an economic necessity.

The most recent Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. study in 2017 revealed that 6.5% of American households were “unbanked”, which means that no one in the household had a checking or savings account.

This percentage has declined since tracking began in 2009, but it still represents about 8.4 million U.S. households, made up of 14.1 million adults and 6.4 million children.

Additionally, 18.7% of U.S. households were ‘underbanked’ in 2017, meaning the household had an account with an insured institution but also obtained financial products or services outside the banking system, such as money orders, check cashing, payday loans, prepayment loans, option-to-buy leasing, pawn shops or auto title loans.

Once again, that rate declined, but it still represented around 24.2 million households, made up of 48.9 million adults and 15.4 million children.

Most negatively affected by a cashless society would be the elderly, low-income residents and minorities.

While the percentage of unbanked households is declining rapidly among young people, the percentage of unbanked people aged 55 and over is increasing, according to the FDIC report.

Those who were unbanked or underbanked reported several factors, including lack of money for a bank account, inability to pay bank charges, or denial of credit for a credit card. The FDIC report found that 47% of black households are unbanked or underbanked.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the problem to the fore in Idaho, according to Scott.

“With the recent COVID crisis, there have been so many companies saying credit cards are only allowed or cash is not allowed,” Scott said.

In addition to Furniss’ objections, legitimate concerns have arisen about how to handle online shopping or someone bringing a “safe full of money” into a closing house or forcing a car dealership to accept a large cash payment. which would require the dealer to hire an armored truck to pick up the money.

Scott said she had ignored these issues and was more concerned with retail stores, such as Walmart, refusing to pay in cash.

Representative John Gannon, D-Boise, suggested some adjustments, such as adding more retail stores and putting in a limit of up to $ 200.

Committee members voted to print the bill, with many members expressing interest in learning more through a full hearing with testimony from retailers and other interested parties. The bill has been referred to the House Revenue and Taxation Committee for a possible hearing.

It may seem odd to have one of Idaho’s strongest advocates of sovereignty and a small government citing the federal code to defend a bill that interferes with the free market in the name of protection. minorities and the poor.

But before you dismiss this bill as a wacky windmill tilt, think again. It’s an issue worth considering, and you might see a strange coalition of left and right lawmakers coming together to support the bill.

Scott McIntosh is the Idaho Statesman opinion writer. You can email him at [email protected] or call him at 208-377-6202. Follow him on Twitter @ ScottMcIntosh12.

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What is this column about?

This column shares the personal views of Idaho Statesman Opinion Writer Scott McIntosh on current issues in Treasure Valley, Idaho, and nationally. It represents a person’s opinion and aims to stimulate a conversation and solicit the opinions of others. It is meant to be part of an ongoing civil discussion with the ultimate goal of providing solutions to community issues and making it a better place to live, work and play.

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Scott McIntosh is the Idaho Statesman opinion writer. A graduate of Syracuse University, he joined the Statesman in August 2019. He was previously editor of Idaho Press and Argus Observer and owner and editor of Kuna Melba News. He has been honored for his editorials and columns as well as for his reporting on education, business and local government by the Idaho Press Club and the National Newspaper Association. Sign up for his weekly newsletter, The Idaho Way.


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