(TNS) — The Illinois House of Representatives has formed a subcommittee to vet bitcoin legislation and study the potential use of its underlying technology.
Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, who will chair the new subcommittee, said the group will focus on the software behind bitcoin, called blockchain. Zalewski said that technology could help state government run more efficiently.
“We are under tremendous pressure in this state to make government more efficient,” he said. “This technology has the opportunity to help remake government. That’s what we’re interested in.”
But lawmakers, who first began discussing digital currency and its application this fall, also want a more focused way to examine bitcoin’s use by consumers, Zalewski said, though he doesn’t expect there will be a rush to regulate or restrict bitcoin’s use.
“The goal of this is not to regulate it in a way that’s going to make people uncomfortable to use it in the future,” he said.
Virtual currencies like bitcoin are not backed by a bank or government, and therefore can be extremely volatile. A single bitcoin, worth just a few pennies when it started trading in 2010, is now valued at more than $14,000. But experts fear the digital currency’s bubble could burst, especially with increased regulation.
Despite big risks, interest in bitcoin has continued to rise. Bitcoin’s price skyrocketed in 2017, and eventually led Chicago’s two main exchanges to open the door for bitcoin futures trading. The digital currency was trading around $1,000 at the beginning of last year, and rose to more than $19,000 on some exchanges in the days leading up to its debut on the Chicago Board Options Exchange and Chicago Mercantile Exchange last month. Its price has since cooled.
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