Rep. Shaw to introduce stronger enforcement on metal theft
Since the beginning of the 2012 legislative session, I have been working with my colleagues on legislation to address the growing problem of metal theft in our state. Copper, aluminum, brass and bronze are in high demand among criminals because of rising prices, despite the enactment of a new law in Georgia in 2007.
The problem is especially severe in rural Georgia, where criminals are stealing air conditioners from churches and ripping wires off irrigation equipment on farms, according to the Georgia Farm Bureau. As an insurance agent, I can attest to the severity of the problem due to the number of loss claims that have been filed in our area.
I will be introducing a comprehensive proposal aimed at assisting law enforcement with dealing with these crimes, adding stiffer penalties on thieves and establishing additional regulations on the sale of scrap metal. Some of the highlights of the legislation include:
• Requiring secondary metal recyclers to include in their purchase transaction records a digital photograph that shows the metal property in a clear, undistorted manner.
• Requiring recyclers to provide their transaction records to their county sheriff, who will transmit the information to a statewide database.
• Prohibiting cash transactions in payment for the purchase of scrap metal, requiring payment by check or electronic funds transfer.
• Specifying that anyone who buys or sells stolen metal is liable to the victim of the crime for the full value of the metal and any necessary repairs, plus court costs and attorney’s fees.
• Providing for a permitting process for secondary metals recycling to be administered by the county sheriffs and creating a misdemeanor offense for purchasing scrap metals without a permit.
I will keep you updated on the progress of this legislation throughout the session.
Meanwhile, Speaker David Ralston has challenged House members to review and evaluate Georgia’s regulatory environment for small businesses as it relates to oppressive and burdensome government regulations and red tape. The Speaker has said this is a situation we cannot tolerate as our state recovers from the economic downturn and positions itself to be even more competitive in economic development.
As part of the Speaker’s “Red Tape Watch” initiative, the Special Committee on Small Business Development and Job Creation will be meeting periodically throughout the session to hear directly from small business owners. The intent is to gather information about state regulations that may be outdated and unnecessary and have them removed by legislation, in order to support an economic environment that fosters job creation and is conducive to the growth of strong small businesses.
The committee’s next meeting will be held Thursday, Feb. 2, at 1 p.m. in Room 406 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building, across the street from the State Capitol. I encourage any small business owners who would like to participate in this process to attend this or a future meeting of the committee. Or, you can voice your concerns online at www.house.ga.gov/redtapewatch.
On Jan. 25, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein delivered her State of the Judiciary address, which primarily focused on the recommendations of the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform. The special council was a joint effort by Chief Justice Hunstein, Gov. Nathan Deal, Speaker Ralston and other leaders to develop a more cost-effective corrections system in Georgia.
According to the council’s report, non-violent drug and property offenders represent almost 60 percent of prison admissions. With each prisoner costing taxpayers $49 a day, it is no surprise that Georgia spends $1 billion a year on our corrections system. Instead of sending low-risk, non-violent, first offenders to an expensive prison, where they often learn to become hardened criminals, the council’s report recommends cost effective alternatives, like community treatment at a Day Reporting Center for $16 a day or probation supervision for $1.50 a day.
Chief Justice Hunstein also recommended expanding our state’s accountability courts. This includes creating new drug, mental health, and veterans’ courts throughout the state. Also, she suggested a new class of violations for less serious traffic offenses that do not require full court hearings. These changes would free up our courts, allowing judges to focus on other important criminal and civil cases.
As always, I am at your service. Please contact me with your views and concerns about any of the issues we will be addressing at the State Capitol during this upcoming session.