- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2007

It’s not exactly voting rights, but the District is one step closer to having its own quarter.

The House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill introduced by Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting representative, that would allow the nation’s capital to submit a design for the reverse side of a quarter, meaning the city soon could join the 50 states in having a customized coin.

“People take great pride that some insignia of their state — whether it’s a flower or a shape of the state or a favorite landmark — is actually on a circulating quarter,” said Mrs. Norton, a Democrat. “If it means something to people in the states, you can imagine what it would mean to people who don’t have full voting rights.”

Mrs. Norton introduced the bill Jan. 10. The House passed the measure four times in previous years, but the Senate blocked each attempt.

With Democrats now in control of the Senate, Mrs. Norton is optimistic that the bill will survive this time.

One of the bill’s sponsors is Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat and chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which will have jurisdiction over the bill.

“The fifth time has got to be the magic moment,” said Mrs. Norton, who emphasized that the victory for a coin still pales to congressional voting rights. “I am optimistic that now [that Mr. Dodd is in] control he will be able to get it through the Senate.”

President Clinton signed the 50 States Commemorative Coin Program Act into law in December 1997, according to the U.S. Mint, but the District was not included.

Mrs. Norton’s bill also expands the program to include American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Suggestions for the D.C. coin’s design range from serious to sarcastic. Ideas include historical images such as Frederick Douglass, Duke Ellington, the Capital Beltway and the panda, but another was the depiction of tourists on the Mall handing their wallets to a smiling mugger.

“I would put a parrot” on the quarter, D.C. cabdriver Clement Olaniyan said yesterday. “A parrot talks too much and D.C. is a noisy place.”

Under the program, 21 billion quarters representing 40 states have been minted, contributing $6 billion to the U.S. Treasury.

Original guidelines require the designs to be “emblematic” of the states and prohibit portraits of any living person.

Designs on quarters in circulation include New York’s Statue of Liberty, Maryland’s State House in Annapolis and Virginia’s depiction of the three ships that brought the first English settlers to Jamestown.

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