Cash No Longer King in Louisiana

Published November 8, 2011

Cold, hard U.S. cash is as worthless as Confederate money in some stores in Louisiana as the result of a new law.

Under a bill that became law in 2011, those who buy and sell secondhand merchandise may not use cash in the retail transactions. Sponsors of the bill said the goal is to have a paper trail to trace sales of stolen goods. Forcing people to pay with checks or money orders would leave that trail.

But the effect of the law appears to be to stifle legitimate businesses that deal in secondhand merchandise. There are numerous secondhand stores in the state that specialize in purchasing goods at garage sales, flea markets, yard sales, and similar venues and then marking them up for resale.

Pawn shops, however, are exempt from the law. Pawn shops already must record customer transactions.

Ignorant of Law

“The effect of the law is that I can’t buy anything in the state,” said Danny Guidry, who owns the Pioneer Trading Post, a resale shop in Lafayette, Louisiana. “I’ve always used cash.” He says people who run garage sales and flea markets aren’t going to take checks or money orders even though the law says they are not to deal in cash. If they take cash, they could be arrested.

Guidry said there are other stores like his that are ignoring the new rule either because the owners don’t know about it or are choosing to ignore it.

He questions the constitutionality of the new law, saying cash has always been accepted, going back to the days when the country was founded and a currency system was established.

‘There Is Legitimate Concern’

Kevin Kane, president of the Louisiana-based Pelican Institute for Public Policy, says he has some sympathy for what motivated the law, if not the law itself.

“The problem here, particularly in New Orleans, is people stealing historical artifacts and selling them—wrought-iron fences, statuary, and other artifacts with value,” Kane said. “The goal was to make it harder for those transactions to take place. I’m not saying that justifies this law. The idea of outlawing cash transactions is pretty outrageous, but there is legitimate concern behind the idea when we have a lot of historical artifacts and people stealing them.

“I’m not sure why it’s caught fire just recently, but there now is backlash. People have been talking about having the law repealed,” Kane said. “I’m not sure if there could be a movement to get it repealed in 2012.”

Phil Britt ([email protected]) writes from South Holland, Illinois.