PHOENIX - State senators voted Wednesday to make gold and silver legal tender in Arizona.
The proposal, SB 1439, stems from concerns of some that the paper money printed by the Federal Reserve Bank is losing value.
They persuaded Sen. Chester Crandell, a Heber Republican, to give privately minted gold and silver coins the same legal status to pay bills, at least in Arizona.
A disdainful Sen. Steve Farley, a Tucson Democrat, suggested if Arizona is going to have merchants weighing and assaying gold and silver to determine its value, perhaps the state should not stop there.
So Farley proposed an "Arizona-centric" list of additions from the "Five Cs" for which the state is known - copper, cattle, cotton, citrus and climate.
He said, for example, there is little difference between trading beef or oranges as commodities versus gold and silver.
"And what has more value than sunbeams?" he added, though he didn't describe how they could be counted.
Farley's lighthearted effort to amend the bill met with frowns from its supporters.
Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, called it an "unfortunate attempt" at humor. And Crandell bristled at having fun poked at his measure.
"Some of these bills come from constituents," Crandell complained during Wednesday's floor debate. "They feel very passionate about what they are, and to ridicule and to make fun of a bill that is being put through I think is very unbecoming the profession that we have down here."
Farley, however, said his amendment fits the proposal. "I believe the bill itself ridicules our financial system," he responded, saying his amendment adding other items to the list of legal tender "simply demonstrates how the underlying bill has serious problems with it."
Biggs, however, said there's no parallel between what Farley proposes and Crandell's bill. He said gold and silver have long been recognized as the backing for legitimate currency. Everything else, Biggs said, is just bartering.
And Biggs aligned himself with the thinking of those who want the coins recognized as legitimate.
"You either have fiat currency which continues to inflate, which is what we have today, or you have something backing up that currency," he said.
The wording of the measure stems from the fact the U.S. Constitution specifically prohibits states from creating their own currency. But supporters contend that does not preclude states from recognizing coins minted by private organizations.
The legislation would not require anyone to accept these coins.
And Crandell acknowledged his legislation probably is unworkable, for now. So he agreed on Wednesday to delay its effective date until after the 2014 legislative session, giving lawmakers a chance to work out any of the kinks.
A final roll-call vote is needed before the measure is sent to the House.