The major recycling industry is an important facet of Lexington's economy as well as all of American manufacturing. We in the industry are extremely troubled by metal theft.
Regulation of theft-prone goods and metals across the board is beneficial and fair for everyone concerned, including recyclers. A statewide regulatory system will create a consistent environment for business and law enforcement, including the ability to share information with local authorities such as the Lexington Police.
A strong state law is in process. It is the result of an impressive collaboration between industry and law enforcement. The bill has passed the House and is working its way through the Senate.
If law, House Bill 390 will:
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■ Establish a name-based background check for secondary metals recyclers
■ Require secondary metals recyclers to register and be certified by the state Public Protection Cabinet.
■ Prohibit cash payments for the purchase of restricted metals, including condensing or evaporating coils from copper, aluminum or aluminum-copper heating or air conditioning units.
■ Require secondary metals recyclers to report purchases of restricted metals to local law enforcement officials at the close of each business day
■ Require secondary metals recyclers to obtain reasonable proof that a seller owns or is authorized to sell the property he or she is selling.
■ Create the Recyclable Metals Theft Prevention Working Group to study and devise additional methods for preventing theft, catching and prosecuting thieves.
■ Designate as a Class B misdemeanor (property damage less than $3,000) or a Class D felony (property damage more than $3,000) the unlawful act of acquiring copper or other metals by maliciously cutting, mutilating, defacing or otherwise injuring any personal or real property.
A patchwork of local laws and non-uniform standards will frustrate these efforts. Other states and cities have seen similar efforts produce weak results. The reasons are numerous.
A county-by-county approach creates an uneven playing field and unfair market conditions. A local ordinance will certainly hurt my business in Lexington. A number of the requirements and fees are impractical and costly.
It will be better to move some of my business segments out of the county if the onerous local proposal comes in on top of the new state law.
In addition, the license and permit structure and fees will drive not just criminals, but also legitimate sellers and customers, to do business in surrounding areas instead of in Lexington.
Lexington taxpayers will pay for duplicate monitoring systems already provided by the impending state law. The ordinance will not stop thieves, who will still steal here and then sell out-of-county where our police have no authority. The Lexington ordinance actually makes it harder for local and state law enforcement to catch thieves.
Finally, any local law should be consistent with state law. Lexington's proposal doesn't accomplish that either.
A smart local decision includes three steps.
First, the Urban County Council should postpone moving on this ordinance. A solid, sensible state law is about to get through.
Second, during this time, the city can work with the recycling industry to develop complementary local rules.
Third, I invite city council members and concerned citizens to visit our businesses to learn more about recycling.
We can create a more effective regulatory environment, one that better protects citizens and businesses from destructive metal theft, based on taking proven steps, well understood and decided by working together.