This new era in cigar politics has, as of this writing, resulted in 81 members of the United States Congress signing on as a patron to H.R. 1639. These Representatives hail from 24 states, with Florida leading the way with sixteen members signed on, followed by North Carolina, Michigan, California, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Ohio, and Virginia. Of special note is the State of Kansas where each member of their Congressional delegation has agreed to sponsor the legislation.
Now, US Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio of Florida introduced S. 1461 since the August recess, and US Senator Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania has agreed to sponsor as well. There is now a mad dash to get other Senators to patron this critical piece of legislation.
The amazing part of this story is what it took to get the legislation to this point. The commitment of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association has been outstanding, with their resources being brought to bear by engaging advocacy and legal counsel, in addition to the volunteerism of their board and legislative committee. With new CEO Bill Spann in the trenches with us in Washington, DC, collaboration between retail tobacconist, manufacturer and consumer is apparent in our briefings.
The CRA Board of Directors pounded the pavement of the Capitol during its August board meeting in Washington, DC, resulting in key overtures to members of Congress from Kentucky, Illinois, and California.
From the manufacturing community, Rocky Patel, Litto Gomez, Jorge Padron, Manuel Quesada of Matasa, Eric and Bobby Newman of JC Newman/Fuente-Newman, and Marvin Samel of Drew Estate have walked the halls of Congress for the effort. Robbie Levin of Ashton, Nick Perdomo, Dan Carr of General Cigar, Dion Giolito of Illusione Cigars, Christian Eiroa of Camacho Cigars have worked the phones, emails, meetings and their own networks to advance this legislation. At quarterback has been Jeff Borysiewicz who now serves as Chairman of the Board for Cigar Rights of America and Gary Pesh as former President of IPCPR, and also on the CRA Board.
These efforts have allowed the cigar community to meet personally with the Majority Leader and Minority Leader of the United States Senate, Majority Leader of the US House of Representatives, and over 100 Congressional Offices, just since April of this year.
Is that a team, or what?! Then, there is you.
You, the passionate cigar enthusiast are the most important piece of the puzzle. Since CRA launched its on-line petition, we can now say [quite literally] that tens of thousands of you have responded in telling your members of the House and Senate, “Tell the FDA: Keep your hands off of my Cigars!” Your emails go directly to your member of Congress, and each member of the appropriate committees that can advance this legislation.
We can now say that the sponsors of these two bills span the political spectrum from the most liberal to the most conservative in voting record and political philosophy – but they are agreeing on protecting your ability to enjoy a cigar with as little government interference as possible.
We can assure you, our enemies are working this legislation too. Over 40 medical and allied health groups have already come out against the bills. We hope that depicts what we’re up against.
There is still a ways to go, and time is of the essence, so please sign the FDA petition at cra.org and make your voice heard. This is a team effort, and you’re the cornerstone of this moment in cigar political history.
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