An emergency bill to deter copper thefts is headed for votes in the Maine House and Senate.

The bill would require scrap metal dealers to maintain stricter records about who sells them metal and requires dealers to hold metal that is suspected to be stolen or related to criminal activity for up to seven days. The bill also increases penalties for offenders.

Current law prohibits the sale of scrap metal obtained illegally and prevents junk metal dealers from paying cash for metal.

Brian Keyte at Kennebec Metal Recycling in Skowhegan said he testified against the bill, noting that his company already imposes the safeguards, but the illegal scrap metal dealers will still be still out there breaking the law.

“The crooks know what they’re doing and they make if difficult for us,” Keyte said.

The bill was approved this month by the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development. It was sponsored by Rep. Thomas Longstaff, D-Waterville, at the request of Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey and the Maine Police Chiefs Association.

– Doug Harlow