August 25, 2008
Metal Recycler Says New Legislation ‘Ludicrous’
By Cotton, C Richard
Walter Fleishhacker is not taking lightly what he considers bad legislation. The owner of Northeast Metal Processors took out a half- page advertisement several days in a Tupelo newspaper to show his disdain for what is known among scrap metal dealers as Senate Bill 2006.
The buyer of scrap metals in Plantersville (southeast Lee County) will cease purchasing the targeted metals from individuals July 31.
"This is ludicrous," Fleishhacker says of the law set to go into effect August 1.
Senate Bill 2006 prohibits scrapmetal dealers buying copper, brass and other metal items from individual sellers under 18 and puts numerous other restrictions on the sale of those metals, popular with thieves during these days of high prices paid for scrap metal.
Commercial and industrial sellers will be allowed to continue selling without restrictions. Fleishhacker says he will continue selling to those customers but will cease buying the metals from individuals.
The law dictates that listed metals brought in for sale by individuals must be handled thus:
* Purchased metals must be tagged and held for three days.
* A photocopy of seller's photo ID must be made and he must sign a statement declaring the material is not stolen.
* A record of the transaction, to include license plate number and seller's vehicle make and model, must be recorded.
* A dated photograph or video, with seller and materials sold clearly visible, must be made of the transaction and kept on file for two years.
* Sellers may not be paid in cash but must instead be paid by check that may only be mailed to them.
Fleishhacker, too, resents the new law's implication that anyone selling the targeted metals is a criminal. He added that the law puts an unfair burden of enforcement on businesses such as his.
"And they're saying that I cannot pay (for materials) in federal currency," said Fleishhacker. "This attacks people in the lower- income strata of Mississippi." He said compliance with the law would force him to hire two more employees and expend "thousands of dollars" in additional expenses.
"This law is so ambiguous in some areas and detailed in others that it was put together with no forethought about its effect on businesses in this state."
He joined the recently formed Metal Recyclers Association of Mississippi, which has filed suit against Gov. Haley Barbour in federal court to halt implementation of the law.
"I made a decision that I'm not going to do it," Fleishhacker said of his decision to stop buying the metals from individuals.
He explained that anything brought in that he or any of his 20 employees think is stolen is immediately reported to police, as it has been for the 35 years he's been in business.
"We're going to have to go back and fix this law," says Stan Hint, managing partner of Southern Strategy Group and consultant for MRAM. "There are clearly elements of this law that upset legitimate operators.
"It makes people angry and (parts of it) are unconstitutional."
Fleishhacker and Flint agree that elements of the bill were driven for inclusion by lobbyists for various industries.
Among some of the bills weaknesses, says Flint, are "handcuffing law enforcement" by demanding that tagged metals be kept somewhere - unsecured - on the metal-buyer's establishment. With such a lax chain-of-custody, any charges would likely be thrown out of court.
There is no doubt the incentive to steal copper and other metals is great.
"Copper is going for $2.30 a pound," says Edith Patterson, manager of Guntown Recycle in northern Lee County. The family-owned business, operating under the name Metal Recyclers, comprises two other locations in Fulton and Aberdeen. Scattered around the Guntown shop area are piles of aluminum, steel, brass, copper and other metals.
Recovery technician James Baker loaded old sheets of aluminum onto a trailer, stopping occasionally to weigh bags of mostly aluminum cans brought in by folks in cars and trucks.
"The decision has not been made whether anything is going to be cut out, here," says Michael Patterson, who serves as general manager of the three locations. His mother points out that they will be forced to purchase as much as $1,000 worth of cameras, copiers and scanners to comply with the law if they continue to buy copper and brass.
They admit to being particularly galled that their honest customers - the overwhelming majority of their clientele, according to Edith Patterson - are practically branded as criminals by the law.
Michael Patterson expects recycling of copper, brass and other included metals to greatly decrease in the law's wake.
"I just cannot assume that someone with 10 pounds of copper to sell is a thief," says Fleishhacker.
Copyright Mississippi Business Journal Jul 28, 2008
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