The New Hampshire state legislature held a pair of hearings earlier this month that focused on how the state could create a means for residents to pay taxes and fees using bitcoin.
Up for debate is a bill recently filed by state representative Eric Schleien that would open the door for the state to accept bitcoin. The bill is currently being weighed by the New Hampshire General Court Ways and Means Committee.
If passed, the bill would allow New Hampshire to partner with a bitcoin company to accept bitcoin payments and receive US dollars. Similar efforts are underway in states like Utah to explore or take the first steps toward some kind of digital currency acceptance.
The committee met on the 12th and 17th of February to hear testimony from a number of local bitcoin activists and politicians. Speakers included Schleien, former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Hemingway, Ziftr CEO Bob Wilkins, as well as other state residents speaking both in support of and against the bitcoin payments bill.
Schleien, who has described the proposal as a conversation starter and a means to spread awareness of bitcoin in the state legislature, provided similar comments in his statements.
Schleien told the committee:
“If New Hampshire can lead the way in the primary process, and we can lead in other ways, why don’t we lead the way to being the first state to actually implement a process? It’s going to happen, all 50 states are going to do this. Why don’t we be the first?”
Many questions brought up by the committee members focused on the general nature of bitcoin, echoing similar hearings held by states such as New York and New Jersey.
Bitcoin battles risk associations
A frequent point of contention was whether the state would incur unnecessary risk by accepting bitcoin as a means of payment or relying on a third party to facilitate bitcoin transactions. Some members of the panel voiced scepticism about bitcoin as both a currency and a technology, whereas others seemed more open to the concept.
The role of bitcoin exchanges in the payment process was mentioned by several committee members, including Representative Bill Ohm who expressed concern that potential disruptions in the bitcoin market might complicate the state’s ability to receive a payment.
“Is the state taking a risk by accepting a bitcoin that there may not be a market for at the time they want to sell it for cash?” he asked.
During testimony, Ziftr CEO Wilkins acknowledged the risk of low liquidity in the bitcoin market but remarked that, under the law, the process of exchange would happen between the resident and a third-party.
Wilkins suggested, as others did during the hearings, that New Hampshire work with processors that hold sufficient capital and insurance to ensure the security of payments.
Opposition strikes critical note
Though many of the individuals who offered testimony during the two days of hearing were in support of the bill, some opposed the idea.
New Hampshire Liberty Party co-founder Darryl Perry spoke out against the bill, arguing that what he described as “contradictory” federal regulations make accepting bitcoin a controversial choice. Perry also noted that neither the federal government or New Hampshire accept precious metals like gold and silver – commodities often compared to bitcoin – for payment.
“Where does this end? Will we go down this slippery slope to any thing of value, and then could I take a carton of eggs and pay my $5 parking ticket?” Perry asked the panel.
Perry also spoke against mechanisms by which the state government can collect funds from state residents.
“I don’t want it to be easy for the collection of fees,” he said.
Recordings of the New Hampshire hearings, filmed by the libertarian organization Free Keene, can be found below.
New Hampshire bitcoin bill hearings Day One:
New Hampshire bitcoin bill hearings Day Two:
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