Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 28, 2015

Schumer, Klobuchar and the Stolen Stop Signs

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

We here at #WGDB like to keep up on the work of Sen. Charles E. Schumer, so we noticed movement on one of the senator’s many parochial interests Thursday.

This time, it’s the theft of manhole covers and stop signs.

At a markup held around the time of a morning vote, the Judiciary Committee backed a bill introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., designed to combat the serious issue of the theft of metal products.  Klobuchar and her colleagues have pushed the measure since last year, with Schumer throwing the weight of his considerable press operation behind the effort.

As Anne L. Kim reported for CQ:

The measure would make it illegal for scrap metal dealers to buy certain metal items — such as road guard rails, water meter covers, or building construction materials — unless the sellers show documentation that they are authorized to sell it.

Scrap metal dealers also would be required to keep records of metal purchases, including information on the seller, and would be required to pay for metal purchases exceeding $100 using checks, not cash.

The bill also would make it a federal crime to steal metal from critical infrastructure if doing so harms it and the metal is used in interstate commerce

We first ran across this issue when Schumer held an October event at the Department of Public Works up in Utica, N.Y., flanked by road signs. He’s co-sponsored Klobuchar’s bill.

“In communities across Minnesota, thieves are targeting public infrastructure, churches and even taking brass stars from our veterans’ graves to make a quick buck,” Klobuchar said. “This is an important step forward for this legislation, and I will continue to work with law enforcement and local officials to crack down on metal thieves and make it more difficult for them to sell their stolen goods.”

In a statement Thursday, Schumer repeated almost verbatim what he said last year in upstate New York.

“With the passage of the Metal Theft Act out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, we are a step closer to putting thieves who steal scrap metal from homes, businesses, infrastructure behind ironclad bars,” Schumer said.

The legislation got through the Judiciary panel on a voice vote and it has bipartisan support, but the path to the Senate floor is precarious. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, opposes the measure because it would make what should be a local crime a federal offense.

“I have heard concerns expressed regarding people stealing valuable metal and crossing state lines to sell the stolen product. While I would support federal legislation addressed to such truly interstate circumstances, legislation that more broadly regulates intrastate conduct is constitutionally problematic,” Lee said in his own statement.

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