AB 129 Is Not California Law Yet… The Remaining Steps Before “Bitcoin Becomes Legal In California” And How You Can Help

Journalist:
February 24, 2014

A top post on /r/Bitcoin at the moment has quite the misleading title.  The specific document linked is merely the latest revision of the bill with analysis from the State Assembly’s Banking and Financial Institutions Committee and dates to 1/23/14.  The post has caused many to mistakenly believe that either the bill has become a law or the bill has been passed and is awaiting signing to become a law.  Both of which are quite untrue and reveal ignorance of political processes.

While I understand that Reddit is a worldwide community without general understanding of the American legislative process, we must make concerted effort to not promote misleading information and validate those whom call our forums and news sites a perpetual echo chamber.

California currently has a bill going through its system that would “legalize” Bitcoin… Image courtesy of JJKBACH

News sources that had taken the massively upvoted post at face value, such as The Examiner, have taken down their stories which claimed that California had passed a law legalizing Bitcoin, others have decided to simply amend their titles.  An example of proper reporting on this story is showcased by Bitcoin Magazine’s Brian Cohen, whom has also been campaigning against Bitcoin FUD for even longer than I have.

I want to take this opportunity to clear the air on AB 129 Lawful Money: Alternative Currency.

Where AB 129 stands as of 2/24/14

On 2/6/14 the California Senate Rules Committee referred AB 129 to the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee which is currently chaired by State Senator Lou Correa.  I expect the Senate’s Banking and Finance Committee to vote unanimously (8-0) to allow the bill to re-enter the Senate floor, as their Assembly counterparts did back in January.

The summary of AB 129’s latest revision reads as such:

Summary: Specifies that current law which bans the issuance or  
          circulation of anything but lawful money of the United States  
          does not prohibit the issuance and use of alternative currency.

Important to note  is that Bitcoin is but one of the “alternative currencies” specifically mentioned in AB 129.  The bill, when it becomes law, will clarify the legal status of all kinds of alternative currencies; including “community currencies” such as “Santa Monica hours,” alternative systems such as Ripple, and even Coinye and Dogecoin.

For up to date information on AB 129 directly from the California Legislature please check this site.

The Remaining Steps

Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee:  Once the Senate committee OKs the bill to be presented to the Senate floor, the second hearing of the bill will occur.  A third hearing will be scheduled and analysis, which includes supporting and dissenting organizations, will be provided.

At the third hearing, there will be a role call vote.  AB 129 will need about 21 votes to make it to the next step, though the community is hoping for a unanimous decision from the State Senate as occurred in the State Assembly.

Once AB 129 has passed through the Senate it will then appear on Governor Brown’s desk for him to sign.  There’s no foreseeable reason why he would choose to veto this bill, which has zero fiscal implication and also such backing from the state’s Assembly members.

For a summary, again straight from the California Legislature, of how a bill becomes a law, please check this site.

How You Can Help

Everyone:

Don’t promote misleading headlines, Bitcoin and its community has grown up enough to say “NO” to these types of media blunders.  There’s already so much FUD and misinformation that appears in the media, and to add to it is an atrocity, to say the least.

If you’re in America, please stay to learn a little about Citizen’s Lobbying!

If you are a California resident, legal or not:

You should go to the California Legislature’s handy dandy website for identifying your State Assembly member and Senator.

Call, email, or snail mail your State Assembly member and thank him or her for their vote on AB 129; it’s likely that an intern will take your call but rest assured that your message will be cataloged and passed on up.

Redditor asciimo has graciously provided a template for a quick email that you can send to your Assembly member to recognize and encourage their support of AB 129

Dear Assembly Member [His or Her Name],

I just wanted to thank you for supporting AB 129, “Lawful money: alternative currency.” I am a technology worker who believes that digital currency such as Bitcoin is an important innovation that will improve the lives of many people. This bill affirms that sentiment, and helps to legitimize this new technology. I encourage you to learn more about Bitcoin, particularly its ability to hasten, simplify, and reduce the cost of transactions for goods and services.

Your constituent, [Your Name]

Call or email your State Senator and urge him or her to vote yes on AB 129; furthermore, urge both your Assembly member and your Senator to stay abreast of bleeding edge technology, such as Bitcoin.

If and only if you have time and commitment, call and schedule a face to face meeting!  It is an obligation for these representatives to talk to their constituents.  Usually, it is larger businesses and/or interests that take advantage of this but there is absolutely no reason why you can’t do it too. That being said, do not walk into a meeting without at least a brochure to add salience to your message.  Don’t be too surprised if you are only able to meet with a staff member; but hey, that’s what the brochure is for.

Last modified (UTC): February 25, 2014 06:12

Caleb Chen @bitxbitxbitcoin

Caleb is a graduate of the University of Virginia where he studied Economics, East Asian Studies, and Mathematics. He is currently pursuing his MSc in Digital Currency at the University of Nicosia.