Legislators frustrated by the attorney general's office's inability to finance operation of a statewide database aimed to reduce scrap-metal theft examined a bill transferring that responsibility to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

Senate Bill 219 would shift responsibility for the database to the KBI and reduce the registration fee for dealers in scrap metal to no more than $750 annually from the existing range of $500 to $1,500. In addition, the bill would add an excise tax on scrap metal sales.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Monday during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting his office wasn’t to blame for insufficient funding to operate the system.

“I’m frustrated because I am trying to do whatever you (lawmakers) want me to do, but I can’t make it work in this framework without the money,” he said.

The proposed tax wouldn't be imposed on scrap metal purchases of less than 100 pounds. The bill would assess a 50-cent tax on purchases between 100 pounds and 2,000 pounds. The tax would be $1 for purchases in excess of one ton. The registration fees and excise tax would be implemented to fund the database.

Megan Bottenberg, a lobbyist with Cox Communications, said the company headquartered in Wichita supported the bill because a functional database would help law enforcement reduce metal theft. Cox is Kansas’ largest provider of broadband services, with nearly 9,000 miles in its network.

“Senate Bill 219 is a fair piece of legislation that addresses the needs of law enforcement, while balancing the burden it places on scrap metal dealers,” she said.

Former Topeka Police Chief Ed Klumpp, who lobbies for three law enforcement associations, said the database would permit data to be analyzed to find trends and patterns related to stolen metal and people selling scrap.

Ray’s Metal Depot owner Ray Maloney, of La Harpe in southeast Kansas, said rural communities like his weren’t experiencing theft and the financial burden of paying for the database shouldn't fall to dealers not involved in the problem.

“It’s going to put my company out of business,” he said. “It sounds to me like Wichita has a problem, and I feel for Wichita, but you’re throwing a blanket over the entire industry and you’re going to kill a small business like mine.”

The Senate committee didn't vote on the legislation.