By Pete Rizzo
California Assembly Bill 129, a bill that would deem digital currencies "lawful money" in the U.S. state, will now head to the desk of California Governor Jerry Brown where it will require final approval to become law. The announcement comes just weeks after AB-129 came before the California Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee, passing by a 7-1 vote.
AB-129, authored by Assembly Member Roger Dickinson, would recognize digital currencies -- along with a host of other commonly issued forms of value including points and coupons -- as lawful alternatives to the U.S. dollar. The state-backed currency would still have legal superiority, as Californian residents are not required to accept forms of lawful money.
Dickinson recently commented that the law is primarily designed to allow California consumers the ability to continue using a variety of common payment methods, and to remove penalties currently on the books for their usage.
In an era of evolving payment methods, from Amazon Coins to Starbucks Stars, it is impractical to ignore the growing use of cash alternatives. This bill is intended to fine-tune current law to address Californians' payment habits in the mobile and digital fields.
A law's long journey
AB-129 first gained attention in the digital currency community back in February, when it was reported that the bill had passed the California Assembly, thereby reaching the halfway point in becoming an active law. At the time, representatives from the California Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee told CoinDesk AB-129 needed to pass three stages in the Senate before reaching the governor's desk. These included being approved by the Senate Policy Committee, Senate Fiscal Committee, and finally, the Senate Floor. However, any revisions would necessitate another vote in the Assembly.
Records from the California legislature indicate that the Senate passed an amended bill on 19th June by a 7-1 vote. The amended bill then headed back to the Assembly floor for a 23rd June vote, where it passed by a margin of 52-11. Now that is has achieved approval in the Senate and Assembly, Governor Brown will have the final say on whether the bill will become law.
Bitcoin in California
The news will be welcome to many in the wider digital currency ecosystem, as California continues to be a hotbed of bitcoin activity. A recent statistical analysis by CoinDesk indicated that 40% of bitcoin professionals hail from California, with many residing in the area's famed startup hub, Silicon Valley.
Notably, AB-129 is not designed to specifically to support the local ecosystem. Rather, Dickinson told CoinDesk in March that it reflects the government's neutral approach to bitcoin regulation. For more on the bill and its potential effects on the bitcoin ecosystem, revisit our full interview with Dickinson.