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Push for cryptocurrency-friendly reform hits N.H. Senate

antanacoins via Flickr/CC -

Republican lawmakers who invest in cryptocurrency or work in that industry told a state Senate committee that New Hampshire should amend its business regulations to make it easier for the crypto industry to flourish here.

The bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Keith Ammon of New Boston, compared his bill, House Bill 1503, which among other things would exempt the sale of “open blockchain tokens” from state securities laws, to setting “rules of the road” for cryptocurrency transactions.

“Sometimes we focus on little issues to fix, and sometimes we look at very big issues to fix,” Ammon said. “This is sort of on the bigger end of the scale, it encompasses a large topic.”

The Senate’s consideration of this bill, which narrowly cleared the House last month, comes at a time when cryptocurrency advocates are working to shape regulatory policy in State Houses across the country.

“Unfortunately this is not yet law, and even more unfortunate, the federal government does not have a framework in place to regulate a company such as ours,” Grafton Rep. Lex Berezhny told the committee.

Berezhny works for New Hampshire-based LBRY, a YouTube competitor built on Blockchain that was sued by the SEC for selling $6.2 million worth of unregistered securities, an allegation the company denies.

Berezhny said he doesn’t see this bill as a “silver bullet” for businesses like LBRY, but hoped it could “begin to form a consensus on how this industry can be regulated.”

How equipped the New Hampshire Legislature is to perform that task isn’t clear. Several members of the committee were quick to admit crypto wasn’t a topic of particular expertise.

“I understood that. If you keep it at that level, I’m good,” said Sen. Bill Gannon of Sandown, when the concept of “consumptive use” was compared to how a child could redeem a ticket won playing skee-ball for a prize but not for cash.

Sen. Harold French of Franklin, the committee’s chairman, meanwhile shared an anecdote about an earlier brush with cryptocurrency policymaking that took place when he served in the New Hampshire House.

“I think we had similar legislation coming forward, and Bitcoin was there. I think they offered me Bitcoin at $10 a piece, and I said, 'Are you crazy?’ French told fellow committee members. “Obviously, I wasn’t forward thinking enough.”

The Senate won’t be the only ones in Concord considering cryptocurrency and blockchain policy.

In February, Gov. Chris Sununu created a cryptocurrency commission. Sununu hasn’t weighed in directly on the bill now before lawmakers but has said he expects his commission, led by Concord lawyer Bill Ardinger, to come up with policies to “promote economic growth, foster innovation, and meet changing customer needs while ensuring safety, soundness, and consumer protection."

Those recommendations are expected in August.

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