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Legislation aimed at preventing copper wire thefts will not be passed in 2014


By Doug Rich

Supporters of legislation to prevent copper wire theft were notified recently by email that Kansas Senate Bill 418 and House Bill 2736 will not be passed this year. Sedgwick County District Attorney Mark Bennett, Wichita, Kan., who helped draft the legislation, said there were several reasons it did not pass.

The first had to do with the central repository of information. Bennett said some legislators questioned who would pay for this while others expressed concern that a central repository of information sounded too much like the National Security Agency and big government oversight.

“I think we could have gotten the bill through without the repository, but to me that would have left it anemic and done us almost no good,” Bennett said.

The second reason for failure to pass this legislation had to do with timing. When there are details to be worked out on a specific piece of legislation, it takes time and legislators just ran out of hours in the day to work them out.

Bennett said it is not unusual for this to happen the first year new legislation is introduced. He expects all the parties to come together this summer and work out any details and bring the legislation back next year.

“We have one year now to improve our shot at getting this bill passed next year,” Bennett said.

In the meantime Bennett encouraged the supporters to build statewide support for this legislation. Statewide support from the Kansas Farm Bureau, county commissioners, the Kansas Association of Counties, and statewide real estate associations could help secure passage of this legislation next year.

“It is always discouraging anytime an effort comes up short,” Bennett said. “But the reaction we received this year both in terms of support and from comments I heard from legislators told me they were ready to help, they just needed to be convinced we weren’t adding costs or overstepping. I firmly believe we can answer these question to their satisfaction over the course of the next year and come back with a stronger bill and even stronger support statewide and regionally than we had this year.”

The theft of span wire from center-pivot irrigation units in Reno, Harvey, and Sedgwick counties has become a big problem in recent years. Thieves steal the wire that runs the length of the irrigation units, burn the insulation off, and then sell the copper wire. They only get about $200 for their trouble, but it costs producers nearly $10,000 in labor and equipment to replace the span wire.

It is not only a big problem for farmers but also for the companies that insure these irrigation units. When companies first began insuring center-pivot irrigation units, the main peril was wind. In central Kansas, as well as other regions, the main peril today is span wire theft.

Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by email at richhpj@aol.com.

Date: 5/5/2014



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