Published on September 6, 2016 at 12:50 GMT
A Florida state senator is drafting legislation that could see bitcoin recognized as money in the US state.
Senator Dorothy Hukill says that while in the early stages, the draft legislation will seek to balance protections for consumers and startups. The effort carries additional weight given that a Florida judge tossed out charges in a criminal case earlier this year on the grounds that bitcoin doesn’t fit the state’s definition of money transmission.
Hukill, a Republican who represents Florida’s eighth district and serves as chair of the Finance & Tax Committee, suggested that the particulars of the bill – the first of its kind in Florida – are still being developed.
Hukill told CoinDesk:
“I think you have to recognize it at some level, so you can legislate and protect your constituents. Then you have to figure out what you recognize it as and how you regulate it.”
While Hukill didn’t have an exact date to share, she suggested that her office has a goal of submitting the bill to the Florida State Senate sometime before 2017. The state’s legislative session doesn’t begin until March, she said, and with election season underway, any “substantive” bills have to wait until after Election Day in early November.
Hukill also indicated that she would seek feedback from industry stakeholders as the bill moves ahead, but said that process likely wouldn’t start until the bill’s contents are more defined.
The effort in Florida marks the latest attempt on the state legislative level to put in place regulations for bitcoin and blockchain technology.
States like California, North Carolina and New Jersey, among others, have moved in that direction, though in some cases not without courting controversy. Hukill referred to the backlash sparked by New York’s state-specific licensing regime, the BitLicense, expressing hope that Florida’s bill will encourage innovators rather than putting them at a disadvantage.
“If we can fit them under our current law, where it’s actually money and can be used legitimately so we’re not chasing people away, that’s what we’re looking to do,” she said.
Hukill argued that the bill is needed in part because of growing interest in bitcoin as a form of money, citing examples of local businesses accepting the digital currency.
“It’s not everywhere, but more and more I see companies accept bitcoin,” she said. “So I think people will start to say, what is that? How can I use it?”
Any future growth in use, she said, drives the need for regulation that would put in place protections for those unfamiliar with the technology.