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Bill would bar North Dakota businesses from refusing cash

Bill would bar North Dakota businesses from refusing cash

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BISMARCK, N.D. — A Republican North Dakota lawmaker wants to prohibit businesses from banning cash as a payment, saying cashless transactions create economic barriers for some residents.

Rep. Ben Koppelman introduced HB 1299 this week with GOP lawmakers in both chambers signing on as co-sponsors. The legislation would bar businesses from refusing to accept cash from someone making an in-person purchase. Businesses that fail to comply could face fines of up to $250 for a first violation and $500 for any repeated violation.

Koppelman, of West Fargo, said not everyone has a bank account or credit or debit cards. He said an increasing number of businesses in North Dakota have gone cashless because of the "fear of virus transfer" from coronavirus pandemic and a shortage of coins across the U.S.

Public officials and health experts have said that the risk of transferring the virus person-to-person through the use of cash or coins is small.

The increasing "digital and plastic" economy "disenfranchises low income, some elderly and those who truly love freedom," he said.

Banning cashless purchases does not create a hardship for businesses, only consumers, he said.

"I've heard people say if a business won't take their money, they will go somewhere else," said Koppelman, a building contractor. "The problem is there may not be somewhere else."

"This is chicken and egg," he said. "I don't think we should have all our eggs in one basket."

According to the U.S. Federal Reserve, there is currently no federal law mandating that businesses or individuals accept paper currency or coins for payment.

"Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether to accept cash unless there is a state law that says otherwise," according to the agency's website.

Some other states, including Massachusetts, and municipalities already ban cashless businesses. Massachusetts passed its law in 1978.

North Dakota's proposed law would have some exceptions, such as parking facilities.

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