PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A bill that would impose felony penalties for buying or selling stolen catalytic converters in Washington state took a step forward Thursday. 

Senate Bill 5495 passed the Senate Law and Justice Committee Thursday with changes meant to toughen the proposal. It’s now been referred to the Senate Committee on Ways & Means. 

Sen. Jeff Wilson, who’s sponsoring the bill, said it’s a direct response to the spike in increased catalytic converter crime in Washington State. He said over the last two years, thousands of catalytic converters have been stolen from vehicles in the state, causing thousands of dollars in damage. 

In addition to imposing felony penalties for purchasing or selling a stolen catalytic converter, the bill would also provide $4 million to help law enforcement agencies crack down on thefts. 

“We’ve heard many good ideas since we introduced this legislation in December, and the bill is getting stronger as it moves through the process. I’m glad the committee recognizes the importance of taking action on this issue this year,” Wilson wrote in a statement. 

The bill was amended by the Law and Justice Committee and would now require scrap dealers to keep careful records of the people who bring in used catalytic converters for recycling, including copies of their photo ID.

It would also prohibit dealers from making cash payments on the spot to people selling catalytic converters. Payments would need to be delayed at least five days. 

Under the proposed legislation, scrap metal dealers could be fined $1,000 for each purchase they make of a catalytic converter that they know was stolen and $2,000 for every time they take possession of a catalytic converter without proof of ownership. 

The Washington State House of Representatives is also considering a catalytic converter bill, HB 1815. If passed, it would launch a pilot project to encourage vehicle owners to place identifying marks on their catalytic converters and set up a database to identify them and determine ownership.

Wilson said this House bill is favored by the scrap metal industry.