Should most Ohio retailers be required to accept cash as payment?

A downstate GOP lawmaker has done something many might consider unusual for a Republican — introducing a bill in the Ohio Senate that would add a mandate for Ohio businesses. State Sen. Louis W. “Bill” Blessing III of Colerain Township in Hamilton County, via Senate Bill 242 introduced last fall, wants the legislature to compel most retail businesses in Ohio to accept cash payments.

This is largely, it seems, intended to stifle a trend the pandemic has accelerated for “contactless” electronic and credit card payments. (Nonpartisan analysts at the Legislative Service Commission say the bill is largely preemptive because so few businesses in Ohio now ban cash payments.)

Denying customers the ability to pay in cash obviously hurts those without bank accounts – poor, marginalized and minority communities. But Blessing, an electrical engineer by training, also sees the dangers of Big Brother in an economy where all payments can be tracked, warning in his sponsor testimony that “the amount of data available on any given citizen through their transactions is disconcerting, to put it charitably.

As Blessing also noted, similar legislation in New Jersey, Delaware and Colorado was sponsored by Democrats, showing the bipartisan potential of a bill that is also likely to appeal to the preference of many Americans. older for writing checks or paying cash.

The bill would exempt certain businesses, including parking lots and large stadiums. “Conceptually, this is a very simple bill,” Blessing said.

It is also a bill that seems to be going nowhere fast. Since being introduced on September 30, 2021 and assigned six days later to the Senate Economic Opportunities and Small Business Committee, he has only had two hearings, both last fall – with only Blessing testifying. and two others, representing the Ohio Poverty Law Center and ACLU.

Blessing also hasn’t signed any co-sponsors of the bill, which seems destined to die at the end of this legislative session unless Senate Speaker Matt Huffman – who likely doesn’t accept cash payments in his cabinet. of family lawyers in Lima – suddenly sees its merits and puts it on the schedule for the lame session after the November 8 elections.

So, what does our editorial board round table think? Cash is still legal tender in the United States. Does it need to be saved? Is the blessing on something? Or will he have to go out and find powerful co-sponsors before trying again?

Leila Atassi, Public Interest and Advocacy Officer:

I’m sure lawmakers see this bill as a solution in search of a problem, given that most businesses do accept cash. But it looks like Blessing is reading the trends correctly here and trying to protect a vulnerable sector of our population before technology makes their money useless.

Ted Diadiun, columnist:

Rarely have I tried to pay for a purchase with cash and been told they don’t take cash. I wanted to laugh at the incongruity. But we don’t need legislators to intervene. It’s the owner’s right – and mine. If the place doesn’t want my money, I can go somewhere else.

Thomas Suddes, editorial writer:

Yes. Legal tender is just that – legal tender – and using other payment setups just makes banks and credit card companies richer, charging merchants a fee for these online payments.

Eric Foster, columnist:

A bank account is not required to obtain an Ohio Direction Card, the debit card Ohio provides to those who get food assistance (SNAP). Family Dollar, The Dollar Tree, the Gas Station and/or Walmart won’t be cashless anytime soon. I understand the theory that cashless commerce hurts the poor and unbanked. I don’t think reality supports this theory.

Lisa Garvin, Editorial Board Member:

For me, cash is still king. Blessing is correct in raising privacy concerns regarding electronic transactions. I don’t want my detailed spending habits hiding in the cloud. Studies have shown that when people see real money leaving their wallets, they spend less and value their purchases more. Save the greenbacks!

Mary Cay Doherty, Editorial Board Member:

I hope we don’t need laws forcing American businesses to accept American currency. Government economic interference often does more harm than good. But if cashless businesses become the norm, the government should assert citizens’ right to use cash. And shame on the companies that need government help to treat customers fairly.

Elizabeth Sullivan, opinion director:

The blessing is on something with this bill and should reintroduce it in the next legislative session. Cash should be accepted by retailers, in the absence of good reasons not to.

Do you have anything to say on this subject?

* Send a letter to an editor, that will be considered for print publication.

* Send general questions about our Editorial Committee or comments on this Editorial Board Roundtable to Opinion Director Elizabeth Sullivan at [email protected].

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