Some Michigan lawmakers are calling scrap metal theft an epidemic. It's where metal parts are stolen from properties including houses, schools and businesses and then sold for cash.
To crack down on the problem, lawmakers introduced a package of bills that are now in the House Regulatory Reform Committee. If passed, tougher penalties would be implemented for both buyers and sellers of illegal scrap metals and scrap metal buyers would be mandated to pay a seller by check or other traceable method.
Larry Bass runs Friedland Industries, a scrap metal recycling business. More than 250 sellers walk into his shop daily and he says not being able to pay them in cash will be costly.
"It would increase check fraud dramatically and our case it would be 50,000 to 100,000 checks a year," Bass said.
However, lawmakers supporting the bills aren't convinced.
"Most businesses are not dealing in cash. I'm not swayed or moved by those who say that having to pay by check is an inconvenience," said Rep. Woodrow Stanley, D-Flint.
If the goal is to trace payments, Bass argues even cash payments in his case are traceable.
"Everything that is dispensed by cash is dispensed with a barcoded ticket that people sign a statement along with giving us their ID, thumbprint, everything's traceable."
Even so, lawmakers insist changes must be made for the sake of neighborhoods across the state. If the bills are passed, a new statewide licensing system for scrap dealers would also be implemented along with a broadened list of banned materials.