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Louisiana Bans Cash For Used Goods

After graduating from Southwest Paralegal College—a for-profit Lafayette-based school which has since vanished into the aether; suspiciously, even the Wayback Machine1 has no information on this august seat of higher education (its robots.txt blocked crawling)—Rickey Hardy, turned to washing houses.2 He was promoted from that position by voters in 2007 to represent, as a Democrat, Louisiana’s District 44. Rickey Hardy

And when there, surely operating under the purest of motivates, Representative Hardy turned his legal mind to the question of cash transactions, “relative to the purchase of junk or used or secondhand property.”

He was agin them.

Not against the transactions themselves, you understand, but staunchly opposed to using cash for them. Why? Well, it appears that Representative Hardy has discovered—imagine his surprise—-that some criminals use cash to exchange used goods.

This being true, and relying on the street-legal doctrine of guilt by association, everybody who uses cash is therefore suspected of larcenous behavior. Solution: ban cash and banish crime!

Let’s look at House bill 195 more closely. A “Secondhand dealer ” is defined as any person

engaged in business of buying, selling, or trading in or otherwise acquiring or disposing of junk or used or secondhand property, including but not limited to jewelry, silverware…aluminum other than in the form of cans…furniture, pictures, objects of art, clothing…

It helps to be clear: “For the purposes of this [law], ‘junk’ shall include any property or material commonly known as ‘junk.'”

Further, any person or business that sells junk, which includes but is not limited to those items aforementioned, “shall either keep a register and file reports or electronically maintain data and be capable or readily providing reports.”

Legal tenderThe reports must contain the name and address of both the buyer and the seller, a full written description of the item bought or sold, signed statements about the transaction, “The motor vehicle license number of the vehicle or conveyance on which such material is delivered”, and a few other items. These records must be kept for three years.

Lest you thought your author was joking when he mentioned the extra-legal doctrine of guilt by association, the lack of records by a merchant “shall be prima facie evidence that the person receiving such material…received it knowing it to be stolen.” Guilty!

Penalty? A fine “not less than one thousand dollars or imprisoned for not less than thirty days nor more than six months, or both.” Serious business, as you can see.

I know what you’re thinking: the law doesn’t overreach badly because pawn- and hock-shop dealers are notorious for dealing in stolen property. Maybe so, but this law excludes such businesses from its gaze, arguing that they are covered by other laws.

This law instead covers people like Danny Guidry, who owns the Pioneer Trading Post in Lafayette. Guidry says, “We don’t want this cash transaction to be taken away from us. It’s an everyday transaction.” He also laments “We’re gonna lose a lot of business.”

Why? Enter the inescapable Law of Unintended Consequences (evidently a subject not covered at Hardy’s alma mater). Eliminate cash from used book dealers, tchotchke hawkers, Salvation Army and other thrift outlets, garage sales, library sales, antique stores, flea and perhaps farmers’ markets, and such forth, and you force the cost of business to rise dramatically.

Any debit or credit card tacks on 3 to 6% (thanks, American express! Hardy calls these, “an electronic”: video). Not everybody has one of those creatures, either, a fact which escaped the tenacious Rep. Hardy. Sidle up to the Goodwill to buy a fifty cent paperback and, lest you risk at least six months in jail, use a credit card to pay, and Goodwill actually loses money on the transaction (the card companies have minimums). Too, if people are forced to use cash for minor purchases, many just won’t make them.

And how are people like Guidry supposed to record the name and number—plus license plate!—of every customer who comes to his store? The ordinary mind boggles.

The minds of the 34 State Senators who voted “Yes” on the bill did not boggle. Four Senators (all Democrats), doubtless taking Barack Obama’s lead, voted “Present”. Only one man said no: Neil Riser, a Republican. To prove that thoughtlessness has no ideology, several other Republicans voted yes. And even a handful of Democrats in the House said nay. And the Governor, a Republican, signed it.

Let’s not make too much of this silliness, because the odds of this law standing without substantial modification are slim. But that it was passed at all should cause us grave concern. It is unilateral, unthinking, pompous, overly paternal actions like this that motivate the Tea Party. There are too many laws, too much oversight by government—it is intruding in places where it has no business.

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1There are a hundred sites where the school is listed, but none that I could discover had any information about the place except its one-time address. Perhaps some reader can do better than I.

2A job which I in no way disparage. I do wonder how many of his customers paid cash.

18 thoughts on “Louisiana Bans Cash For Used Goods Leave a comment

  1. Briggs, if laws like these pass then a change to the national anthem may be in order.

    ‘O’er the land of the free-to-do-what-the-government-permits, and the home of voluntary servitude’.

  2. Living near those bayous can be a lonely existence at times, bringing on all sorts of mental aberrations. Why, someone told me once there was an entire community in that neck of the woods that built houses and businesses in a low lying area next to a government designed elevated marine waterway. And then brought in cute little critters from South America to live in and burrow through dirt banks holding back all that water. Don’t it just beat all?

  3. My dollar bill has: “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.” It would seem this law says “Not So!” and, in effect, outlawing it. Interesting. I wonder how this would stand up in court.

  4. Is it banning cash? I read it that all transactions must be documented regardless of the medium of payment. Certainly a regulatory burden, but not a ban on cash.

    In my former life I was a bond trader. I could spend $100 billion with one phone call and barely a scrap of documentation.

  5. It doesn’t say anything about cash. In fact, it seems to be addressing the buying and selling of items commonly stolen goods from construction sites like copper tubing but includes things like railroad track, railroad ties, jewelry, etc. Where I live the theft of tubing and air conditioners is rather frequent. Effectively, it turns junk dealers into pawn shops by adding equivalent requirements. The fines are $25-$100 so they aren’t really serious about it. It’s just another fine example of increasing the Big Brother network.

    It isn’t even applying this to all transactions. Anyone occasionally selling or buying is exempt. It does raise a question whether it applies to someone who frequents flea markets but obviously is meant to include dealers at flea markets. Keeping all of those records will put quite a damper on them though and it’s probably unintentional.

  6. On further reading, it proposes an escalating fine for non-compliance although it states (in different places) that the present fines are $25-$100 and the present fines are no less than $250. Confusing but I don’t really want to parse the whole thing to dtermine what was meant.

  7. Doug, actually the documentation requirement already existed, it was dressed up and changed a bit (the struck out language of the old law only required record keeping for purchases over $25.00, for instance) but it previously existed in a very similar form. The most significant change (which the good Wm Briggs messes up) is that the no-cash rule only applies to the purchase of “junk” by junk dealers, not the sale of “junk” and one can still buy a book from Goodwill for 2 quarters, cold hard cash without Goodwill having to make a record of the transaction.

  8. may be the version linked doesn’t include this but the law passed contains this section

    §1864.3. Payment by check or money order required
    10
    A secondhand dealer shall not enter into any cash transactions in payment for
    11
    the purchase of junk or used or secondhand property. Payment shall be made in the
    12
    form of check, electronic transfers, or money order issued to the seller of the junk or
    13
    used or secondhand property and made payable to the name and address of the seller.
    14
    All payments made by check, electronic transfers, or money order shall be reported
    15
    separately in the daily reports required by R.S. 37:1866.

    this link should be to the law as it exists now.

  9. max,

    I missed it the first time around. But there it is. 1864.3 effectively means it supersedes “Legal tender for all debts, public and private” by making a cash transaction illegal. A state can’t override federal so this clause will probably render the legislation invalid. I assume it was meant to increase trackability by (presumably) enforcing proper identity. That’s easily circumvented and all the clause does put the law in jeopardy.

    It also means that if you don’t have a bank account you just got screwed by your friendly state gov. because now you have to pay a premium just to get the benefit of selling your ‘junk’ (the inanimate kind) — something you are doing because you need the money. It also probably means if you need the money today you might find yourself waiting until the next non-bank holiday.

    All of this just to stop what’s normally petty theft. The English back in the days of Daniel Defoe just hung anyone convicted of petty theft. Note that didn’t stop anyone from stealing though. This piece of legislation wasn’t well thought out.

  10. Actually it won’t even stop most petty theft either. Minor thieves already use their own IDs (required for the records junk dealers had to keep under old law) and get away based upon the fact that police are too busy to look through the paperwork for the most part. More serious thieves use fake IDs and will continue to use them. And the dealers who knowingly paid cash for stolen goods and didn’t check IDs as required by the previous law will continue doing the same.

    All it primarily does is create more paperwork of minimal usefulness and create a hassle for poor people. As a bonus it will make it harder for some people to avoid filing taxes which might even produce half as much revenue as it costs to hire people to actually handle the tax paperwork (most of the people who avoid filing taxes this way make so little they wouldn’t actually pay any taxes, but they avoid having to file tax forms to show they don’t make enough money to pay taxes).

  11. Drug addicts cause terrible damage stealing copper wire from houses, will cause $1,000 of damage to get $10 for the scrap for their next bag of methamphetamine. They will be less inclined if they know they will have to wait for a check to arrive in the mail at their address.

  12. I think this might be more about precluding the eventual use of silver and gold for transactions, which is the opposite of the attitude of several other states.

  13. “Congress shall pass no law impairing the obligation of contracts…”
    When I exchange my personal property for valuable consideration of whatever kind I have the right to accept or decline the medium of exchange. My private contract in this matter is to not encumber the person with whom I contract with record keeping or other regulatory obligations, and any other information incident to that transaction are not required.

    If they take exception to that philosophy then they can trace my disobedience back to the muzzle flash from which my ultimate resistance derives.

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