Dan Stewart, state representative of the 25th House District, supports proposed statewide legislation as a step toward solutions to an increase in vacant houses and scrap-metal thefts, two linked problems on the Westside.
“Abandoned houses are more vulnerable for copper theft and scrapping,” said Stewart at a town meeting on May 1 at the Southside Settlement House.
“This is causing serious harm to our neighborhoods.”
The latest proposed legislation would emphasize responsibility on part of the property owner and require a purchaser to provide contact information at the point of sale for future communications in the event of code violations or other matters involving the property and its role in the surrounding community, according to testimony given by Ohio Treasurer Richard Cordray on Jan. 29 at a Civil Justice Committee hearing.
The bill also seeks to remove unnecessary hurdles to local governments and community organizations that wish to redevelop vacant properties, said Cordray.
Already approved by the House, the legislation remains in the Senate.
Stewart hopes for a decision by June.
A second plan, passed by the Senate in March, aims to improve regulations on scrap-metal sales as thieves continue to cash in air conditioners, car parts, and copper piping.
The Senate bill would require scrap-metal sellers to provide photo identification, as well as proof of ownership if selling certain items. It also prohibits the sale of more than one catalytic converter per day by people who do not operate an auto-related business.
“This bill should at least be the floor,” said Stewart, who believes that Ohio needs uniform regulations on scrap-metal sales.
Columbus already enforces a law forcing scrap-metal dealers to maintain a license and provide fingerprint identification of all sellers as well as electronic communication between dealers and police, a requirement that exceeds the bill’s provisions.
An amendment to the bill also states that state law shall take precedence over city laws.
Stewart intends to continue push for language in the bill that would allow Columbus and other city laws to trump state law and encouraged residents at the May 1 meeting to call and share the same opinion with Sen. Stivers, (R-Columbus) who sponsored the bill, but also opposed the amendment.
“You have to be active and involved in the community in order to see positive things happen,” said Stewart, reminding residents that the legislature cannot control everything.