2008 News

New law to deter metal theft brings cheers

By Dong-Phuong Nguyen, Times Staff Writer, October 3, 2008 TAMPA — More than a year ago, state Rep. Baxter Troutman was faced with a $5,200 repair bill when thieves tore apart the irrigation system for his citrus farm to steal copper wiring.

Troutman soon learned that he was not alone. The theft of metals for money was such a lucrative business, cases were popping up all over the state. The Republican from Winter Haven fought back by introducing a bill that makes it harder to sell the metals. That law went into effect Wednesday, bringing great relief to industries hit hard by the thefts, but a headache to scrap metal dealers who now must adhere to a long list of requirements.

"We're excited about giving law enforcement more tools and options to hopefully bring a stop or at least put a dent in this epidemic that has spread not only in our state, but I suspect the nation as well," Troutman said.

The law calls for buyers to document much more information from sellers than before. It requires facts like full name, address, and home and work phone numbers; vehicle make, model and tag number; and height, weight, gender, eye and hair color. Also, payments above $1,000 must be by check.

"It's a nightmare," said Edward Sharpe, vice president of Industrial Metals Recycling in Tampa. "There's just a super amount of information that is required now, and it's just a slow process."

Sharpe said that though he supports the new law, the first 24 hours after it went into effect weren't fun.

He processed about 200 to 300 transactions in that 24-hour period. What used to take minutes per person is now about 10 to 15 minutes. So far, none of his customers have refused to provide the information, said Sharpe, who once had 12,000 pounds of stainless steel stolen from his business four hours after it was dropped off.

"We do not buy stolen material; nor do we encourage it," Sharpe said. "I just need to figure out how to speed up the process to get customers out quicker."

Scrap copper, often shipped to China to be recycled, sells for about $2.30 a pound. The damage that thieves do in acquiring the metal far outweighs the money they bring in.

Nationwide, the theft of metals has caused more than $1-billion in repairs and replacement for its victims, said Keyna Cory, coordinator for Floridians for Copper and Metal Theft Crime Prevention, a fraud business coalition made up of representatives from a spectrum of companies like utilities, beer distributors and construction.

Popular targets are new-home sites, air-conditioning units, beer kegs and farms. In January, thieves broke into a Seminole Heights church, broke up the air-conditioning unit and stripped the wires inside the building — all for $200 worth of copper. The damage they left behind? More than $50,000, Cory said.

Cory, who is also chief lobbyist for Associated Industries of Florida, said she sent out an e-mail to business owners statewide this year to see if they had concerns about the theft of copper.

"My computer was like a Christmas tree lit up," she said. "Everybody in the world seemed like they were getting hit."

Cory said she soon discovered that Troutman's bill was already in the works, making a lot of people happy.

"The great thing now is ... thieves are going to think twice about selling it," Cory said. "If they don't have a place to sell their goods, maybe they won't steal property."

Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813) 269-5312 or nguyen@sptimes.com.

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New law aims to stop metal thefts

By STEVEN BEARDSLEY Sunday, September 28, 2008 BONITA SPRINGS — Twelve cents for every pound of steel.

Landscaper Matt Miller’s 46,000-pound backhoe fetched about $4,000 when a client hauled it to Garden Street Recycling in Fort Myers without Miller’s knowledge.

The earthmover had sat on the client’s property for months as Miller recovered from a motorcycle accident, unable to complete the pond project for which he was hired. In July, the client hired a truck to haul it to Garden Street, where it was summarily dismantled, its steel shipped to a mill.

“Garden Street don’t care,” Miller lamented in July. “They don’t care.”

Rob Weber would disagree. Garden Street’s president grouses at the idea that his business looks the other way when thieves who crack open air conditioners, break into utility boxes and sneak around construction sites tow their quarry to the center.

“I would take any one of the people who says that and let them come down to my scale, and they can come point to what they think is stolen and what isn’t,” he said.

Instead, he said, Garden Street has been proactive in recording information from every transaction. Employees at its three area centers already photocopy each trader’s driver’s license, and they take a photo of the metal. They can burn on a CD a video of the entire transaction. Signs around the business warn that cameras record everything.

“My God, how much more information do you get?” Weber said. Beginning Wednesday, even more.

A new bill signed into law in May, and entering effect Oct. 1, requires Weber’s employees to obtain phone numbers from every trader, as well as their weight — which isn’t on a driver’s license — and the make, model and license of the car the trader drove to the center. A thumbprint must also be taken from each trader.

Recyclers who fail to keep those records can now be hit with a third-degree felony, which is punishable with a maximum five years in prison.

House Bill 105, sponsored by Rep. Baxter G. Troutman, R-Winter Haven, seeks to stem rising numbers of metal theft that in the past year have coincided with soaring metal prices and an abundance of material on construction sites.

Copper rose to between $3 and $4 a pound on the secondary market in 2007, up from roughly $1 in 2005. Steel prices earlier this year went as high as 15 cents a pound, though they’ve now settled to around half that.

Troutman wrote the legislation after thieves stole the copper wire from a pump in his citrus fields in Central Florida in February, just when the trees needed water most before a new growing season.

“They reached up and took all the metal and aluminum coming in from the power line,” he said. “The (repair) was about $1,200 or $1,500 dollars just for that.”

His bill amends an existing Florida statute, which requires recyclers to record only the information from a trader’s driver’s license. In addition to requiring more information be recorded, the law says that recyclers must cut a check for amounts over $1,000, and that records from every transaction must be kept for five years.

Punishments would climb, as well. Before Troutman’s legislation, a trader faced a first degree misdemeanor for giving a recycler false information. Now he would face a second-degree felony if the metal is worth more than $300. Anything less brings a third-degree felony.

A first-degree misdemeanor carries a maximum one-year sentence; a second-degree felony carries a maximum 15-year sentence.

Keyna Cory, chief lobbyist for the 10,000-member strong Associated Industries of Florida, applauds Troutman’s bill.

“We think with the years in jail, with that potential, it’s going to make them think twice about it,” she said. “Instead of just slapping them with a fine.”

Cory identified metal theft as a legislative target before the session began, she said. AIF represents a broad range victims, from homebuilder to telecommunications companies to beer distributors (keg thefts increased when steel prices climbed earlier this year). Members were big on the idea of strengthened legislation, Cory said.

“It was amazing how our computers lit up,” she said. “We had so many different entities that had been affected from some form of copper or metal theft.”

Finding Troutman’s finished bill was a pleasant surprise, she said, and AIF joined the legislator in pushing it through the session. Not that the bill needed much help. Only one legislator, a senator, voted against it.

“It went through all the commissions before the session even started,” Troutman said.

Recyclers were initially concerned by the increased regulation, Troutman said, but they ultimately signed on. With the powerful lobby behind the bill, they had little choice, he said.

And many of the larger recycling centers were already keeping good records about their transactions, both of the people bringing in the metals and what exactly those metals were. The addition of a fingerprint, and a few more questions, wouldn’t seem prohibitive regulations.

Sgt. Keith Day, a Lee County Sheriff’s Office detective in Bonita Springs, said recyclers like Garden Street are generally helpful in providing records about suspect transactions. Now, he said, they’ll have “to take it a little bit farther.”

From a law enforcement perspective, the more information recorded the better, Keith explained. Detectives can occasionally warn a recycler to watch for a stolen piece of metal. But typically the metal is traded, processed and shipped before anyone realizes it’s gone or before a police report is filed.

Odds of an arrest increase when officers find an information trail.

“I don’t have to recover the metal,” Day said. “All I have to prove is that he had it and went in there with it.”

Providing that information can be costly for recyclers. In Naples, L & F Scrap Metal is installing a computer database capable of searching records by any field of information his recyclers collect. The system costs $5,000 out of the box and $1,500 a year to manage.

It’s a significant expense for the smaller recycler, which processes maybe 30 transactions a day, but owner Gray Johnson shrugs it off. All recyclers are having to spend money to comply with the law, he said, and if further regulation makes law enforcement happy, so be it.

“I’m in between,” he said. “It’s a good idea, but I don’t think it’s a fix-all.”

Johnson said Collier County detectives held a meeting with local recyclers to explain the new law. What would happen, after all, if a license plate was missed, or someone refused to give their weight or phone numbers?

“They left us under the impression that when they’re looking for someone, we’d better have that information,” he said.

Weber, at Garden Street, suggested some of the new requirements are absurd. He wonders how reluctant traders will be to give such personal information and how much time it will cost his recyclers to get it, and he expects to hire two more men at his Fort Myers center.

And in the end, the law won’t make a difference, he said.

“It’s not going to slow down the theft,” he said. “The stuff being stolen is being moved out of the area by other recyclers who aren’t legitimate, and it’s going to continue to happen.”

Day, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office detective, said illegal scrap yards exist, but they aren’t very common.

In the current boom of scrapping, it wouldn’t be a surprise.

Garden street is shipping thousands of tons of metal overseas each week, to mills in growing countries like China, Malaysia and Vietnam.

When steel prices rose earlier this year, even more metal was being traded. Including a 46,000-pound backhoe.

Weber said seeing such machinery wasn’t uncommon at the time--some firms were trading in their machines to take advantage of high prices. Deputies never arrested the client who brought it in, calling it a civil matter between Miller and the client.

“That’s who he’s got a beef with,” Weber said of Miller. “The guy who brought it in here.”

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Giving small business another voice

by David Chapman Staff Writer, Jacksonville Daily Record, 09/09/2008

Small businesses in the area have another group looking out for them.

The Small Business Regulatory Advisory Council, composed of nine small or former small business owners, was formed during this year’s legislative session and became effective July 1.

“It should act as another voice for small business owners in the area,” said Paul Arrington, a certified business analyst with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of North Florida.

“Small business” is defined as an independently owned or operated business that has 200 or fewer employees and a net worth of $5 million or less.

The UNF center is one of the 34 affiliates of Florida SBDC Network, the principal business assistance organization in the state and will house the new Council.

According to the Department of Education’s executive summary, Council powers and responsibilities include: providing agencies (any governing body that could affect small businesses) with recommendations on proposed rules that could affect small businesses; considering requests from small businesses to review rules or programs along with property rights of small businesses; and reviewing any agency rules to determine whether any rules create an unnecessary burden on small businesses.

The nine Council members are appointed by Florida’s governor, senate president and speaker of the house and are to submit a written report on an annual basis.

One of the Council’s first appointments, Keyna Cory, is president of the Tallahassee-based Public Affairs Consultants and has been a small business owner for over 20 years.

“I know what it’s like to be a small business owner,” she said. “My goal is to go back and see if the rules and regulations make sense.”

Cory, along with Toby Oberdorf of Palm City, Fla., was appointed by the Senate president’s office. The office has yet to name its third member, while the governor’s office and speaker of the house have yet to nominate any members to the Council.

When all the appointments have been made, Arrington said he anticipates working with the Council and is looking forward to hearing about potential changes. “In the future, we’ll most likely hold hearings with the Council to go over things we’ve heard and seen that affect our local small businesses,” said Arrington.

Though not affiliated with the local SBDC at UNF, the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce’s own Small Business Center does have a relationship with the organization, said Bob Baldwin, senior vice president of community development for the Chamber.

“We’re quick to provide input whenever we can,” said Baldwin, who noted some of the most consistent concerns he hears regard affordable and accessible healthcare for small businesses.

Baldwin said he is still learning about the new Council but like Arrington, believes it can only help with communication to elected officials.

According to officials at both the governor’s office and speaker of the house office, appointments for the committee should be made within the next couple months.

For Cory, though, it can’t come soon enough.

“I’m excited and ready to go now,” she said.

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Keyna Cory Appointed to the Small Business Regulatory Advisory Council

Tallahassee, August 2008: Tallahassee: Keyna Cory was appointed recently to the Small Business Regulatory Advisory Council by Senate President Ken Pruitt. (Click here to read the appointment letter.)

The Small Business Regulatory Advisory Council (Council) was created by HB 7109 during the 2008 Florida Legislature Session and signed into law by Governor Charlie Crist on May 30th.

“Small Business” is defined in F.S. 288.703 – “as an independently owned and operated business that employs 200 or fewer full-time employees and has a net worth of not more than $5 million.”

There are almost 2 million “small businesses” in Florida and small business owners provide over half of all wage-and-salary jobs in the state’s private sector. In Florida, small businesses lead the way in job creation.

“I look forward to working on ways to cut the red tape that small business face every day while doing business in Florida,” Keyna Cory said.

The Council may provide agencies with recommendations regarding rules or programs that may adversely affect small business, consider requests from small business owners to review rules or programs adopted by an agency, to review small business owner’s private property rights, and review rules promulgated by an agency to determine whether a rule places an unnecessary burden on a small business.

The Council shall submit a written annual report to the Governor, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House.

Keyna Cory is the President of Public Affairs Consultants Inc. located in Tallahassee. For over 20 years Keyna Cory has been the owner of a small business. She is responsible for all aspects of the management and operation.

Public Affairs Consultants Inc. is one of the oldest and most respected public affairs consulting firms in Florida. Keyna has worked with a variety of clients from small business to Fortune 500 firms. She is considered an expert in business regulation issues.

Keyna is also the Chief Lobbyist for Associated Industries of Florida (AIF). She is a Member of the AIF Political Council (AIF PC) and a Board Member on the Associated Industries of Florida Political Action Committee (AIF PAC).

“I am honored that Senate President Ken Pruitt has this much confidence in me,” Keyna said. “Small business is the backbone of Florida’s economy,” she added.

“Over the years I have heard from many members of AIF about the difficulty small businesses suffer trying to do business in Florida. I am hopeful the Council will help solve some of the problems that all Florida small businesses face,” Keyna concluded.

Keyna was the President of the Florida Society of Associations Executives Foundation in 2006 and she was awarded the Associate Member of the Year of FSAE in 2001.

Keyna was the first women to serve as Chairman of a college football bowl game in the nation; the 1995 Carquest Bowl in Fort Lauderdale. She currently represents the five Florida football bowl games.

She is a member of Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity and served as President of the Tallahassee Alumnae Club.

Keyna is married and lives in Tallahassee with her husband, Jack, and her 2 dogs, Sadie and George.

Click here for Keyna Cory's Bio.

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Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp talks to Republic Services Managers on House Floor

Orlando Sentinel, 7/17/2008

Tallahassee: Managers with Fort Lauderdale-based waste disposal company Republic Services were in Tallahassee for meetings this week and got a visit Thursday on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives from Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp.

Lt. Governor Kottkamp gave the group of some three dozen folks seated at lawmakers' desks an overview of legislative districts, Gov. Charlie Crist's economic agenda ... oh, and the good feelings folks can create with politicians when they give to their campaigns.

Yes, it is the apex of fundraising season, when pols stress at every opportunity the importance for those who can give, to give. While he was careful not to sound like he was soliciting contributions himself, Kottkamp said that going door-to-door and 'investing' in new, young candidates 'builds a bond that will last a lifetime.' 'Anybody who helps a candidate in this process, it'll never be forgotten,' Kottkamp, a former Republican House member from Cape Coral, told the group. 'That's how you make an impact in this process, by being a part of it.

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Statement by Associated Industries Chief Lobbyist Keyna Cory Regarding Passage of Ad Valorem Taxation Legislation

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. May 2, 2008 — “Associated Industries of Florida congratulates Representative Peter Nehr (R-Tarpon Springs) on the unanimous passage of HB 909, as well as Senator Mike Haridopolos (R-Melbourne) for his companion bill SB 2080. This consumer-friendly legislation will provide Floridians with a standard procedure by which they can challenge their local property appraiser’s assessment of the value of their property. Representative Nehr’s bill incorporates the recommendations made by the Auditor General on how Value Adjustment Boards operate, providing a more balanced board to hear consumer concerns in local communities.

“AIF also supports Representative Nehr’s efforts to change current Property Appraiser’s methods for working waterfronts and other small businesses that are located in areas where the property values have accelerated in recent years, which will bring fairness to businesses located on the coast. During this time of spiraling real estate taxes, not only are Floridians’ pocketbooks affected, but also the viability of Florida’s economy. This legislation works to correct the problem. It is evident the Florida Legislature has Florida’s small businesses’ best interest in mind by approving language that allows appraisals to be based on the actual use of the property at the time of appraisal, instead of under the highest and best use method.”

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Statement by Associated Industries and Coalition for Responsible Preservation of Public Land Representative Keyna Cory Regarding Florida Forever Program

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. April 30, 2008 — “The Florida Coalition for Responsible Preservation of Public Land (RPPL) and Associated Industries applaud the work of Florida legislators in their efforts to continue protecting the state’s precious natural resources. We support today’s action to extend the successful initiatives of the Florida Forever program and encourage Governor Crist to sign this worthy legislation into law. Our Coalition is deeply committed to protecting Florida’s pristine lands, wildlife and waterways, and the work by legislators demonstrates their shared commitment as well.

“Our elected leaders, with the leadership of bill sponsors Senator Burt Saunders (R-Naples) and Representative Will Kendrick (R-Carrabelle), have shown great wisdom in recognizing that Florida’s natural beauty is uniquely connected to our economy and overall quality of life. Each year, millions of Floridians and thousands of tourists enjoy our state’s award-winning beaches, our wonderful climate and the abundance of parks and other outdoor recreational venues. The legislation protects the state’s pristine lands while also recognizing the need for the responsible use of water supply programs, public access to water areas, imperiled species habitats and working waterfronts.

“Florida’s pristine environment can be preserved, while also providing reasonable access for the recreational enjoyment of boaters, bird watchers, hunters and other avid outdoorsmen. The enhanced Florida Forever program will provide for the environmentally-sound use of certain lands to responsibly keep pace with the state’s growing population and economic needs for generations to come.”

Florida RPPL Coalition Members

American Waterworks Association
Association of Florida Community Developers
Associated Industries of Florida
Ben Hill Griffin, Inc.
Boat U.S.
Citizens for Florida's Waterways
Duda & Sons
Florida Agriculture Association
Florida Airboat Association
Florida Association of Realtors
Florida Cattlemen’s Association
Florida Electric Power Coordinating Group
Florida Farm Bureau
Florida Forestry Association
Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association
Florida Home Builders Association Florida
Marine Contractors Association
Marine Industries Association of Florida
Marine Industries Association of South Florida
Marine Industries Association of Southwest Florida
National Marine Manufacturers Association
Organized Fishermen of Florida
USA Water Ski

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Statement by Floridians for Copper and Metal Crime Prevention Coalition and Associated Industries Chief Lobbyist Keyna Cory Regarding Passage of Legislation to Deter Metal Theft

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. April 23, 2008 - "The Floridians for Copper and Metal Crime Prevention Coalition and Associated Industries of Florida applaud the work of the Florida Legislature in passing crucial legislation to help curb metal theft activity, a crime that has seen a dramatic rise in recent years. This legislation will act to deter thieves from bringing stolen items to a legitimate secondary metal dealer by requiring these metal dealers to keep records from who they acquire metal. In addition, any unscrupulous metal dealers who do not provide the required information for a sale and who receive stolen property can be charged with a third-degree felony.

"Due to the increasing worldwide demand for metals, metal theft is on the rise and can jeopardize the safety of individuals who are affected by the theft, as well as wreaking havoc on communities by causing power outages and surges. We are grateful for the hard work and commitment of Representative Baxter Troutman, Senator Lee Constantine and Senator Victor; the Coalition is confident this legislation will protect the safety of all Floridians."

Floridians for Copper and Metal Crime Prevention Coalition

American Fire Sprinkler Association
Alarm Association of Florida
Anheuser-Busch Companies
Asphalt Contractors Association of Florida
Associated Builders & Contractors of Florida
Associated Industries of Florida
Beer Industry of Florida
Coors Brewing Company
City of Orlando
Florida Association of General Contractors
Florida Association of Electrical Contractors
Florida Building Material Association
Florida Carpenters Regional Council
Florida Electric Cooperatives Association
Florida Farm Bureau
Florida Fire Equipment Dealers Association
Florida Home Builders Association
Florida Municipal Electric Association

Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association
Florida Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association
Florida Retail Federation
Florida Roofing, Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors Association
Florida Solar Energy Industries Association
Florida Swimming Pool Association
Florida Telecommunications Industry Association
Florida Transportation Builders Association
Florida Wall & Ceiling Contractors Association
Gulf Power
Hillsborough County
Independent Electrical Contractors of Florida
Miller Brewing
Underground Utility Contractors of Florida
United Pool & Spa Association

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Crist credited with '1'
Critics say voters lured by financial incentives

January 31, 2008

Basking in the star power of a popular governor, Republican faithful spent Wednesday giving Charlie Crist the credit for Amendment 1's surprise victory.

Others wondered where the polls went astray.

"He should get the lion's share of the credit for this," said Ken Wilkinson, the veteran Lee County Property Appraiser who championed the 1992 "Save Our Homes" tax revolt. "It's rare to see a politician, a sitting governor, take a leadership position on a ballot measure."

Wilkinson also noted proudly that the birthplace of Save Our Homes, Lee, Collier and Charlotte, led the state in support for Amendment 1, with 82.1, 81.4 and 77.7 percent respective majorities.

"When we saw the polls, we wondered how we could be wrong," said Keyna Corey, chief lobbyist for Associated Industries of Florida, the 10,000-member business group. "We kept in very close contact with our members, and they said it had very strong support."

Critics are quick to point out that history isn't exactly littered with voters turning down lower tax bills, particularly a measure that would slash $9.3 billion over the next five years and give the average homeowner a $240 annual windfall.

"Is there another time when we've put out that bait and the people haven't taken it?" Sandy D'Alemberte, a former lawmaker, Florida State University president and former president of the American Bar Association, said dismissively.

Regardless, supporters with the Florida Association of Realtors, who poured $1 million into the Yes on 1 campaign, entered a St. Petersburg victory party on election night at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort with butterflies in their stomachs, said the group's immediate past president, Nancy Riley.

Amendment 1 was the first ballot proposal facing a new 60 percent majority requirement, and the group's internal polling fluctuated wildly throughout the campaign, from a low of 57 percent to a peak of 66 percent, Riley said.

The measure passed 64 percent to 36 percent.

"The undecideds were so huge," Riley said. "They were making up their minds when they got into the booth."

The measure faced a wave of critical news coverage, negative editorials and withering opposition from local governments, teachers, police, firefighters and labor unions. Opponents warned about declining schools, closed parks and longer response times for accident and crime victims.

That's where the Crist factor worked its magic, Riley said. Voters may have been skeptical, but an upbeat and popular executive who downplays partisanship and trumpets a populist agenda helped them feel comfortable saying yes, she said.

"I think the people trust the governor, and they trust him to do the right thing," Riley said.

At least one academic disagrees. A day before the election, when the polls were suggesting an uphill struggle for the measure, Florida State University political scientist Robert Crew said that a voter is more likely to consider his or her financial situation than a politician's advice.

"To see this as a referendum on Charlie Crist (goes) a little bit too far," Crew said.

Veteran Florida pollster Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research gives Crist his due, but points to an angry electorate and what he calls the "political correctness factor."

Mason-Dixon's Jan. 21-23 poll showed the measure lagging 51-36, with 12 percent undecided.

However, the poll's headline said the measure's fate was still, "up in the air."

Turnout in the presidential primary would be critical, Coker warned at the time, since Republican voters overwhelmingly supported the measure, 61 to 27 and independent voters leaned toward the measure, 57 to 26. A whopping 17 percent of independent voters said they were undecided.

"Given recent voter angst over increased property taxes in a now declining real-estate market, those who are 'undecided' could see Amendment 1 as a way to vent their frustration with government," Coker wrote at the time.

A day after the election, Coker said voters were obviously squeamish about telling pollsters they supported the measure, especially after the opposition painted it as a selfish move.

"It was almost as if you voted for this, you were a bad person," Coker said. "When you create that kind of an atmosphere, a lot of people will say they're undecided, just to be polite."

Coker acknowledges that the poll did not pick up some of the geographical splits.

It was easy to predict that the measure would go down in flames in heavily Democratic Leon County, where 63.7 percent voted against it, but not heavily Republican and conservative Duval County, where it garnered only 47 percent support.

The big surprise was the 71.4 percent yes vote in heavily Democratic Miami-Dade County, Coker said.

"A lot of Democrats voted for it," he said.

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