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Mich. House panel OKs bills to curb sale of stolen scrap

Michigan House committee OKs bills to crack down on sales of stolen scrap, other material

LANSING — A Michigan House committee approved legislation Tuesday to monitor the sale of scrap metal and other frequently stolen materials.

The proposal has bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled Legislature and the backing of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

The House Regulatory Reform Committee passed two bills sponsored by Rep. Paul Muxlow (R., Brown City) and Sen. Jim Ananich (D., Flint).

The legislation heading to the full House would expand the type of metals subject to recycling regulations in Michigan. It would create a paper trail to help police and prosecutors gather evidence on thieves.

The bills ban cash sales of commonly stolen copper wire, catalytic converters, and air conditioners and set a three-day waiting period for some purchases.

Mr. Snyder has said the legislation was a priority for his administration, but it appeared to stall earlier this year after receiving many complaints from metal recyclers who said the proposed regulations would end up punishing them along with thieves.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Detroit) and a longtime advocate of tougher regulation of scrap sales, praised the committee’s action.

“As a recent victim of scrap metal theft myself, I am pleased to see these two bills move from committee with strong bipartisan support,” Ms. Tlaib said. “Scrap metal theft destroys our communities when illegal scrappers steal playground equipment from parks and schools, and abandoned homes are a greater danger when they’ve been stripped of metal.”

Rep. Klint Kesto (R., Commerce Township) said the action “gives an opportunity for prosecution of the bad actors. It gives law enforcement the opportunity to identify where those thieves are going, and which scrap yards are not acting in good faith,” reported.

The bills, an update of those that stalled earlier, include new language protecting scrap metal recyclers from liability in the event that their electronic record keeping system malfunctions or if they purchase property that they had no way of knowing was stolen.

Scrap metal yards already must make a copy of a seller’s photo identification, take their thumbprints, and make them sign a statement indicating that the material is theirs to sell.

The proposal now would require them to photograph or video record all incoming material and name employees who weigh and inspect purchases. It also expands those metal items they can’t buy.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries has said it is neutral on the package. Some recycling yard operators say they remain concerned about the regulations.

“Percentage-wise, it sounds like they’re trying to crack an egg with an anvil,” said Michael Bass, manager of Friedland Industries in Lansing. The company now keeps video of all incoming sales, and it helped recover brass drain plates stolen outside the Michigan Supreme Court building in 2011.

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