In an effort to crack down on growing problems of copper theft around South Carolina, state legislators want to require those who sell copper to get a permit. It’s intended as a way for law enforcement to track who is selling the metal.
However, the House and the Senate currently cannot agree about the best way to do that. A version passed by the House in February was held up in the Senate after Sen. Glenn Reese (D-Spartanburg) objected, saying it was unfair to require those who wanted to recycle their own copper to get a permit. The Senate changed the bill as part of a compromise, requiring permits only for those who wished to sell more than 10 pounds of copper. The Senate also removed a House provision that required the copper to be paid for only by a check.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Harry Ott (D-Calhoun), said those changes were unacceptable to him, as the small-time crooks the bill targets would be selling less than 10 pounds of copper. And, he adds, they would want cash.
A lot of our problems come from people who have drug problems. They are looking for immediate satisfaction and the only way they get immediate satisfaction is through a cash sale. (They have) the ability to come in and steal wire, take it, get an immediate handful of cash, and go buy some drugs.
The House passed its version of the bill by a 79-34 vote.
A few members wondered if banning scrap yards from paying cash was even legal. Rep. Steve Parker (R-Boiling Springs) said he felt the change would hurt those who actually follow the law by requiring them to pay a fee to get a permit.
We’re doing everything we can to restrict the individuals that are trying to make an honest living buying materials.
Rep. Joe Neal (D-Columbia) said allowing cash would eliminate a paper trail that law enforcement could otherwise follow if the copper turned out to be stolen.
We are now at a crossroads. Are we going to stop this, or are we going to mollycoddle these guys who are out there stealing the citizens of this state blind? I don’t think it’s too much to ask someone to write a check to identify and to document who they are.
The Senate would have to agree to the changes. Since the bill has passed both chambers, it can still be taken up when legislators return for a special session in two weeks.