Mr. President, I rise today to discuss the Metal Theft Prevention Act, which was filed as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. In a moment, I am going to ask unanimous consent to make this amendment pending, but first I wish to explain why this amendment is so important.
I have been working on this legislation for years. Senator Schumer is a cosponsor. In the past, I have had support for this bill as cosponsors in Senator Hatch, Senator Lindsey Graham, and Senator Hoeven. Why has there been bipartisan support in the past for this bill? I think we all know that this is a public safety issue. Metal thieves have targeted labs, power stations, and gas lines, causing blackouts, service disruptions, and even dangerous explosions.
In September of 2013, four people were injured in an explosion at a University of California, Berkeley, electrical station. Officials blamed it on copper theft that occurred 2 hours before the explosion.
Georgia Power was having a huge problem with thieves targeting a substation that feeds the entire Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world. The airport was getting hit two to three times a week, and surveillance didn't lead to any arrests.
The crime has also hurt the dignity of our veterans. Last year in my home State of Minnesota, the metal thieves robbed dozens of veterans' graves, taking the brass rods that hold their symbol of service. It is a crime that is almost too callous to comprehend, but sadly this wasn't the first time. On Memorial Day in 2012--this is just in Minnesota--thieves stole more than 20 Bronze Star markers from veterans' graves in Isanti County. That is why this bill is supported by the Veterans of Foreign
Wars, the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, as well as major law enforcement organizations and business groups.
The bill is really quite simple. It will help combat the shameless crime across State lines by putting modest recordkeeping requirements on scrap metal dealers and recyclers in place. It will limit the value of cash transactions to $100 and require sellers in certain cases to prove they actually own the metal.
All we are trying to do is stop scrap metal dealers from taking stolen metal. And the reason we can't just do it State by State is that a lot of States are doing this but a lot of States aren't, and what the thieves are doing is crossing State lines, stealing the metal in one State and selling it in another.
This is an important bill, and it has been heavily lobbied against by the scrap metal dealer association.
The Democratic side of the aisle has cleared this bill. We are ready to go forward with this amendment. There are objections on the Republican side. But I think people better step back and realize, the next time there is a major explosion, the next time something happens like this, which is happening on a weekly basis across the country--that they understand we could have done something to prevent it.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to set aside the pending amendment in order to call up my amendment No. 1555.