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House Panel OKs Bills To Curb Sale Of Stolen Scrap

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LANSING (WWJ/AP) – 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, according to MLive.com. 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.

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.

“This 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,” said Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township.

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 malfunction 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.

At a hearing held in June, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, expressed her support for the legislation, saying Michigan is ranked tenth highest in the nation for the number insurance claims resulting from scrap metal theft. Rep. Paul Muxlow, R-Brown City, said that, in his district, scrap metal thieves are back on the street stealing again just days after being arrested.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries has said it is neutral on the package. Some recycling yard operators say they remain concerned that regulations designed to punish thieves and those who help them fence their stolen materials.

“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.

MORE: Bi-Partisan Support For Bill To Thwart Metal Thieves

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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