Cracking Down on Copper Thieves

A bill approved by the General Assembly and recently signed into law by Gov. Parson will close a loophole in Missouri’s laws regarding the theft of copper and precious metals.

Missouri currently tracks every time a business purchases scrap metal, junk, or other materials that include copper, but an exemption leaves such transactions unrecorded if the material is valued at less than $50.  Legislation (HB 69) now set to become law repeals that exception so that all such sales will be recorded.

The bill’s sponsor said it will deter copper theft, which is a problem statewide.  He’s heard of thieves stripping copper from vacant houses in his district and doing tens of thousands of dollars of damage.

“By doing this then they can track who’s been stealing copper and who’s been selling it, and if you can’t sell it, why break in and steal it?” he said.

The bill also aims to address a dramatic increase in recent years in the theft of catalytic converters. It makes such thefts a Class-E felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.

The bill sponsor said, “Thieves get a battery-powered saw and cut a catalytic converter out and probably in 2 or 3 minutes, and they’ll be gone. That’s happened again to my town just the other day.  They went to an auto dealer lot and they had already cut out five or six catalytic converters before being discovered.”

Under the bill a detached catalytic converter also cannot be altered or destroyed for five days after it is bought. Another provision increases from five days to ten the time a pawn shop owner must wait before melting down precious metals, in case they’ve bought stolen items. The legislation also increases the length of time records on the sales of certain metals must be maintained from two years to three. The provisions in the bill take effect August 28.

Funding for Roads and Bridges Signed in to Law:  SB 262 is meant to increase transportation funding for critical state and local infrastructure projects across the state of Missouri. The bill will generate the funding by increasing the state’s fuel tax by 2.5 cents per gallon each year for five years, beginning in 2021.

Gov. Parson said, “With nearly $1 billion in unfunded transportation needs each year, we can no longer wait for another day or another generation. We must change course and address these problems head-on. SB 262 provides vital revenue that will help us fund essential road and bridge projects all across the state. Quality roads and bridges increase the efficiency and safety of our roadways, invite travelers and business investment, and save Missourians money.”

The governor noted that Missouri has the seventh largest transportation system in the nation but only ranks 45th in available revenue per road mile. Over the last 25 years, the state has not significantly increased funding streams for state or local transportation projects, while the cost to maintain Missouri roadways has continued to increase significantly. 

The bill could increase transportation funding by more than $450 million once its provisions are fully implemented. An estimated $330 million per year would be available for the State Road Fund administered by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), and nearly $125 million – approximately 30 percent of total revenue – would go directly to cities and counties for local transportation projects. 

REFUND:  The bill also includes a provision to allow Missourians to avoid the increased fuel tax. Missourians that do not wish to increase their contributions to state and local roadway repair and replacement projects can submit the required documentation – including fuel receipts – to the Missouri Department of Revenue each year for a refund. 

For more information, contact Representative Patricia Pike at or call 573-751-5388.