Albert Camus once said, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” Autumn is a time to enjoy the bounties of Michigan’s harvest, reflect on nature’s beauty with the changing of the colors, and renew our efforts to recognize and preserve Michigan’s rich cultural and architectural heritage. Part of those efforts include protecting historic resources from metal scrappers – people who decimate our heritage for a quick buck.
Back in June the House Regulatory Reform Committee, chaired by Representative Hugh Crawford, held several hearings on House Bills 4593-4595 which deal with scrap metal theft. Chairman Crawford appointed Representative Klint Kesto to assemble a bi-partisan workgroup during the summer recess to forge a compromise.
Before being elected to the House of Representatives, Rep. Kesto was an assistant Wayne County Prosecutor and lead efforts to combat scrap metal theft. His background and detailed knowledge of the issue made him a natural choice to lead this effort.
Rep. Kesto’s legislative aide, also a former Wayne County assistant prosecutor with experience with scrap metal theft, met individually with various stakeholders over the summer to solicit input, including MHPN’s lobbyist. MHPN, through Executive Director Nancy Finegood, crafted additional suggestions for strengthening the bills.
Rep. Kesto, joined by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, convened a bi-partisan workgroup of all interested stakeholders in late August. At the meeting, Executive Director Nancy Finegood gave a passionate argument regarding the devastating impact scrapping has on historic properties. In some cases, scrap recyclers are presented with stolen scrap materials – materials ripped from abandoned homes, foreclosed properties, and historic buildings. They in turn sell the scrap materials to smelters. It is an insidious cycle where everyone profits from the wrongdoing. Part of the compromise is strengthening the regulations of how the scrap materials are accepted. This would entail taking a photograph or video of the material, verifying the seller’s identity, and waiting several days for certain items before payment is made to ensure that the material is not stolen. The Committee favorably reported the bills and they now await action by the full House of Representatives.
After the House dispatches the bills, the Senate is expected to take up the issue; although its fate is uncertain. Several recycling businesses remain concerned about the bills despite attempts to craft a reasonable solution. MHPN will continue to lobby for passage of these needed reforms.
As with the upcoming election, politics has entered into the scrap metal debate as well. Rep. Tlaib has been an ongoing and active proponent of the scrap metal reforms. As she is term-limited in 2014, she has announced her intention to run for the State Senate. That means that she will challenge Senator Virgil Smith in the Democratic primary.
In response, Sen. Smith has introduced his own bills to address the issue of scrap metal theft and to neutralize this as a campaign issue. Sen. Smith’s bills, Senate Bills 468-470, take a different approach to the issue by focusing on the actual people who do scrapping by requiring them to obtain permits. This is in contrast to the House Bills which focus on the recyclers that purchase the scrap metal. In addition, Senator Tupac Hunter has introduced bills that mirror the House Bills. It is uncertain which bills the Senate will consider.
Autumn affords us a different perspective on the beauty of nature and the team at MHPN will continue advocating for and advancing the interests of historic preservation. MHPH’s Executive Director Nancy Finegood, MHPN’s Public Policy Chair Greg Saxton, and MHPN’s Board President Melissa Milton-Pung will continue to lead our efforts to preserve, protect, and enhance our historic resources!
After all, it’s about bringing new life to historic neighborhoods … It’s about main street remaining a good place to shop … It’s about historic farmsteads and lighthouses, factories and churches being vital parts of Michigan’s landscape … It’s about choosing how your community grows and changes … Most of all, it’s about you getting involved.
Please contact us if you have any questions or if we can be of service!
The Frederick Group
115 W. Allegan Street, Suite 200
Lansing, MI 48933
Like us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/frederickgroup
Follow us on Twitter: @Mfrederick19