Calif. lawmakers pass bill to update currency law, aid Bitcoin users

SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 23 Mon Jun 23, 2014 10:55pm EDT

SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 23 (Reuters) - California lawmakers on Monday approved a measure making it easier to use alternative currencies including Bitcoin, even as the failed Tokyo based bitcoin exchange, Mt Gox, moved forward into bankruptcy protection.

The bill would repeal what backers said was an outdated law prohibiting commerce using anything but U.S. currency.

"This bill is intended to fine-tune current law to address Californians' payment habits in the mobile and digital fields," said the bill's author, Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson in a press release.

He cited the popularity of Bitcoin, and said even gift cards and reward points from retailers could be considered illegal under the current law.

"In an era of evolving payment methods, from Amazon coins to Starbucks Stars, it is impractical to ignore the growing use of cash alternatives," Dickinson said.

Mt Gox, once the world's leading exchange for Bitcoin trading, shut its website earlier this year after saying it lost some 850,000 bitcoins - worth more than $500 million at current prices - in a hacking attack. It subsequently said it found 200,000 bitcoins.

The company filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in March to prevent U.S. customers who had filed a class action lawsuit from seizing its U.S. assets, such as computer servers, and demanding evidence and access to Mt Gox executives.

Last week, it received approval to begin Chapter 15 bankruptcy proceedings in the United States.

Dickinson's bill now goes to California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, for his approval or veto.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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