AB 391 lumps antiques dealers with pawnbrokers, may cripple California antiques trade

A California bill grouping antiques dealers with pawnbrokers may be on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk as early as this summer for signage into law. AB 391 require antiques dealers, specifically those with brick and mortar locations, to become part of a statewide electronic reporting system, the online database that tracks the buying and selling of all secondhand property. The new law also require that all merchandise bought or taken on consignment by the antiques dealer must be held for 30 days before it can be offered for sale – an unheard of requirement for antiques sellers.

California bill AB391 antiques dealersThe California Assembly unanimously passed the bill April 12, 2012 and on May 12, the California State Senate Committee on Public Safety followed suit, also unanimously passing the bill. The aim is to make it tougher for thieves to sell stolen merchandise through second-hand stores.

If passed the law in effect turns antiques dealers (and all businesses dealing with secondhand merchandise) into pawnbrokers, mandating them to operate under the same legal guidelines. Antiques dealers will now be required to submit to the same licensure procedures as pawnbrokers and be subject to the annual renewal fees which could reach as high as $300. This does not include the cost that will be forced upon each dealer to implement and use the online database reporting system — a cost that seems to be conveniently absent from all legalese associated with this bill.

Operationally, for antiques dealers, the new law requires that all secondhand tangible property — except firearms — which have been purchased, taken in trade, taken in pawn, accepted for sale on consignment or accepted for auctioning must be reported on the database system within 24 hours. In addition, fingerprints and photo identification must be obtained from the seller of the property and complete description of the merchandise must be submitted along with applicable serial numbers.

California lawmakers, along with support from local law enforcement agencies, attempted to pass a similar bill 10 years ago without success but this time, under the leadership of Assemblyman Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), the bill virtually flew right through. With the power of the California Pawnbrokers Association behind Pan as well as support from California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Los Angeles Sherrif Lee Baca to name just a few, there was fear that this time the bill would pass and indeed it has.

Support for this bill has been garnered by convincing legislators that this will greatly reduce stolen property being filtered through secondhand dealers. We know antiques dealers rarely deal with stolen property and they are being unfairly targeted. It’s about the money and California’s severe financial crisis which is at the core this bill. It’s a bit similar to California’s Department of Fish and Game’s new found mission to save the elephants in Africa, recently raiding antique shows and auction houses and placing ridiculously high fines on all ivory, antique or contemporary, that is being sold.

Fees would build the new Secondhand Dealer and Pawnbroker Fund. Antiques dealers would be paying to fund the statewide reporting system with the state pledging an additional $2.5 million for implementation. The last time we checked, California is facing a $15.7 billion budget deficit. Charging antiques dealers out of business won’t come close to filling this void. This bill is about the money the state so desperately needs.

AB 391 will have a devastating effect on many of California’s thousands of antiques dealers to say nothing of the secondhand dealers overall. Call it the anti-recycling bill, the anti-green bill, the State of California seems to want to penalize those businesses that are truly recycling and truly green operations.

The only bright spot in this whole poorly written attempt to regulate the buying and selling of used goods, is that at this time, dealers who strictly do antiques shows and flea markets will not be subject to this new law.

Antique Trader opposes this bill and there is still time to try and stop AB 391 from being signed into law by Governor Brown. This is very serious and the California antiques trade needs everyone’s support so it can continue to be a vibrant part of the antiques trade in the country.

You can read the entire bill here: Assembly Bill 391.

To express your support in opposition to AB 391, you can email a letter to Brown’s office directly or contact
Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160

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