Whenever a proposal comes before your legislative body - be it state, national or local - it is imperative to express your views about the legislation. The following is a letter I sent to my representative in the Monroe County Legislature.
Monroe County Legislator
As the county legislator representative for my town of Riga, I feel it is imperative to express my deep concern over the proposed county legislation to regulate pawnbrokers, secondhand dealers and jewelry and coin exchange dealers. I have worked as a small, sole proprietor business owner in antiques/collectibles for over 35 years. I have experienced the retail business from every possible selling/buying angle. The county law proposal is not a well thought out law nor is it a realistically enforceable if passed. It will not solve any stolen property issues. Most definitely however it will hurt small business owners and antiques/collectibles sellers.
Several years ago the NY State legislative branches tried to implement similar guidelines and it was a complete failure. In a nutshell - the proposals were not logistically enforceable, would create massive paperwork and expense for law enforcement agencies and create havoc among small business owners thereby deterring business growth.
The current Local Law Proposal facing the Monroe County Legislature has not addressed any of the issues that the state legislature could not resolve.
Some specific points:
1. Definitions are extremely vague as to what business persons are affected. What is the intent of the law regarding internet businesses? Many people today operate businesses from their home offices - are these subject to police inspection? If someone sells a general line of antiques and also sells some jewelry which might fall under this law, are they required to follow the same law procedures as a major jewelry store or pawn shop? Are antiques co-op participants also required to follow the same law proposal?
2. Precious Metal Definitions. Jewelry composed of copper is virtually considered low end value in the costume jewelry world. Household items of all copper are also traded. Under the definitions of Precious Metals, copper is included. It is hard to fathom writing a report for police investigative purposes for an item that might be worth less than $10. In addition, much vintage jewelry that is silver also falls into a low retail value. Oddly enough a funky rhinestone necklace can be work more than a sterling silver ring! One more point - many small business buy more for style/age/appeal than precious metal content and do not test metal. Such actions require expertise and equipment most businesses don't have available. The point is too many variables determine price of jewelry and not just precious metal.
3. Most antique and collectibles sellers buy their inventory at estate sales, flea markets, auctions and between dealers. Only a small portion is purchased through front door walk-ins.
4. An annual $250 license fee is an exorbitant cost for most small business owners. On the surface this fee represents nothing more than an unspecified tax on some business owners!
5. Section 382-6. Licensing, Item K - exemptions: "Any Jewelry or Coin Exchange Dealer, whose annual gross retail sales are comprised of less than 15% Secondhand Articles. To establish this as a viable requirement is not within the general accounting actions of small business operations. It is an illusive number system. It is open for wide abuse.
6. Section 382-9. Reporting, Item A, regarding reports due to Monroe County Sheriff within 48 hours of purchase is unreasonable and useless. The Sheriff's office will have no manpower to process the sheer volume that such a law would require. Instead of being affective in crime problems, the police enforcement officers will be severly burdened by the county's legislative proposal.
7. Section 382-9. Reporting, Item B. Many businesses do not have the capability to use internet uploading of data as prescribed. Creating a law that creates conditions impossible to follow is not good law.
These are only a few points of contention with the proposed draft law. The intent of it being "a tool to recover stolen merchandise" is a false premise. The law will do no such thing.
As my county representative and as leader of the County Legislature, I strongly urge you to vote against this proposal. Monroe County depends on small business operations and the antiques and collectibles business is a strong source of tourism in our region. Making criminals out of business owners who fail to meet impossible demands and adding heavy financial costs of annual licensing will only serve to hinder retail business and subsequent sales tax benefits to our county. Nothing in this law proposal will aid police enforcement with regards to stolen property.