House and Senate lawmakers agreed on House Bill 1136 today.
Metal thieves would face misdemeanor penalties. They would face felony charges if they commit more than $500 worth of damage.
House Judiciary B Committee Chairman Willie Bailey said emergency warning sirens in the Jackson area did not work during recent tornadoes “because thieves had taken copper out of the warning systems.”
“Thank God nobody died because of that act of thievery,” he said. “But the same people are out there now taking metals from emergency equipment that were placed there with state and local dollars to protect the public.”
Several senators spoke against the bill, saying it would unfairly burden small business owners, such as scrap metal dealers.
“We’ve addressed writing checks in this bill. We’ve addressed tag-and-hold. We’ve addressed beer kegs,” Sen. Gary Jackson, R-Kilmichael, said. “I feel like we’ve addressed 28 problems to take care of two.”
But Tollison stressed that copper theft is a “big problem.”
“This affects our communities and we need to get a handle on it.”