Governor Vetoes HB 1136 - Metal Theft Law - - Jackson, MS

Jackson 05/13/08

Governor Vetoes HB 1136 - Metal Theft Law

The Governor has vetoed HB 1136 which would have given some significant relief to every business and homeowner that has been a victim of copper and metal theft.  This bill passed in the House 103-19 and in the Senate 42-8.  I'd like to give credit where credit is due.  Rep. Willie Bailey, Chairman of House Jud. B did an outstanding job of providing the leadership that this bill needed to get passed.

This is a huge dissappointment to me and many small businesses in Mississippi.  It is going to cost us thousands of dollars per week in the form of stolen air conditioners and stolen copper.  This problem affects every consumer in Mississippi.  During the recent storm recovery, AT&T had some large quantities of wire stolen that had been left at a jobsite overnight.

The Public Service Commissioner of the Southern District of Mississippi (Bentz), the Mississippi Malt Beverage Association and the Home Builders Association formed a coalition to support this legislation.  Everyone from small landlords to large utility companies such as Mississippi Power Company on the gulf coast have been hammered by the crime of metal theft.  The list includes schools, churches, non-profits, homeowners, and a dozen different kinds of small businesses.  The cost to the property owner of each occurrence ranges from a minimum of $500 for the replacement of a small air conditioner copper line set to over $100,000 for the City of Jackson to have all of its storm warning sirens repaired or replaced.

Does this bill place too many requirements on metal recycling companies?  No.  The bill that passed is almost identical in its requirements of recyclers to the laws passed in Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee.  Therefore, the law that Governor Barbour vetoed is a law that is commonplace in our surrounding states.  It may not have been a perfect law, but it would have given small businesses significant relief until minor amendments could have been made in subsequent years.  Now, Mississippi has the weakest law for helping small businesses combat this problem.  In fact, we still have almost no law that will significantly give small businesses the needed relief.

If there ever was a piece of legislation to help small businesses, this was it.  If the Governor has any interest at all in helping small businesses, utilities companies, schools, and non-profits, he missed the biggest one of the year.  It's a bit offensive that the Governor's spin on his veto is that the bill "places an undue regulatory burden on the metal recycling industry, including many small businesses in Mississippi."  Give me a break.  The recycling companies are selling stolen property.  The Governor attempts to make it sound as if he is looking out for the interest of small business.  The ONLY businesses that benefit from this are the metal recycling plants who purchase my stolen copper and sell it for a profit.  The people of Mississippi have not been served by the Governor's decision.

So what's the problem?  The large recycling plants like Nucor don't like two (2) of the requirements.  The tag and hold requirement and the requirement that the recycler pay for the metal by check mailed to the address on the driver's license of the person bringing the metal to the plant.  Without these requirements, the law will have no teeth.  Again, our surrounding states have similar requirments.

Lastly, the Governor says he is waiting to hear from small businesses on this issue.  Where has he been?  The news media has been blanketed by occurance after occurance of metal theft and the impact it has had.  I personally know of over forty small businesses that have written the Governor's office to support this bill.  I am absolutely confounded that he has vetoed it.  Small businesses have waited day-after-day for some relief.  This problem is so costly to small businesses that every day counts.  We are now going to have to wait even longer because Haley wants to make sure the recycling companies that are profiting from the stolen metal are not harmed by the new law.  There is something wrong with this picture.

Jack Harper

Jackson, MS

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