03.11.2011 - Legislative Updates By State

In the form of one of the worst pieces of legislation of its kind currently pending in the nation, California State Senator Mark DeSaulniers, D-Walnut Creek, and Assembly Member and Chairman of the Majority Caucus, Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, have just introduced a sweeping piece of tobacco prohibitionist legislation that seeks to close every existing exemption to enjoying perfectly legal tobacco products in the State of California.

As Senator DeSaulniers takes the lead in introducing Senate Bill 575 it is imperative that every passionate cigar enthusiast and retail tobacconist engage themselves in this legislative battle.

Senate Bill 575 would ban smoking in all retail tobacco businesses, private clubs, hotel lobbies, bars, taverns, banquet rooms, warehouse facilities, and employee break rooms.

And we don't have former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to protect us now with the power of the veto pen.

[UPDATE] Senate Bill 575 has been assigned to the California Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations.

Make no mistake, this is a very real threat to your passion for fine cigars. It not only affects the entire state of California, but sets a horrid precedent for the entire nation.

Senate Bill 575 threatens your freedom to enjoy a cigar at your local retail tobacconist and is a direct threat to the livelihood of professional tobacconists across California -- and could spread across the entire nation.

It is time to draw a line in the sand on this type of legislation, and with California being a benchmark state for such legislation, this prohibitionist style of law making needs a direct and passionate response from all in Cigar Nation.


1. Please contact your member of the California Assembly and Senate (search by zip code) and tell them to SAY NO to Senate Bill 575.

2. Please sign the CRA Petition.


1. Please sign the CRA Petition.

In his own words, Senator DeSaulniers wants to eliminate your freedom and ability to enjoy cigars.

Read Senator DeSaulniers Statement


Representative Mary Sue McClurkin, R- Pelham, has introduced a comprehensive statewide smoking ban proposal in the State of Alabama. This is a stringent piece of legislation, seeking to reach into private clubs, and the means by which she defines "business" could clearly reach into cigar and specialty tobacco shops. In fact, she makes no clear exemption for cigar shops. It also clearly bans smoking in all restaurants and bars throughout Alabama. The legislation also has strict rules for outdoor smoking. No more cigars at the Alabama and Auburn tailgate parties.

The legislation has been assigned to the House Health Committee. It has to be defeated in the House, whereas in years past, such legislation has passed in the Senate, and died in the House. Below are the contacts for the House Health Committee, and links to contact your member of the Alabama House and Senate. Call and write your member, TODAY!

Alabama House of Representatives
Alabama Senate

Alabama House Health Committee

Jim McClendon , Chair ; Mike Millican , Vice Chair, Johnny Mack Morrow , Ranking Minority Member ; Elaine Beech , Donnie Chesteen , Berry Forte , Laura Hall , Ed Henry , Ron Johnson , John Knight , Paul Lee , Becky Nordgren , James Patterson , Allen Treadaway , April Weaver .


Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy has proposed over $1.5 billion in new taxes for the citizens and businesses of Connecticut.

Nothing is left untouched. He wants to tax yoga sessions, haircuts, pet grooming, car washes, much less raise the sales tax. Oh, and for good measure, he throws in new taxes on plastic surgery and boating support services (obviously an important industry to the state); toss in increased taxes on beer, gas, hotel rooms, rental cars, as well as a new slate of "luxury taxes." And then, there is tobacco.

He wants to raise the tax on cigars from 27.5% to 50% of the wholesale price.

This bill is being heard in the joint Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.

Send them a message.

1) They will send Connecticut tax revenue to lower cost alternatives, such as surrounding states and the Internet.

2) They will irreparably harm Connecticut small businesses, with lost jobs, and closed shops.

3) This type of regressive taxation results in the same budget hole they began with, and an expanded black market for illegal products.

This, indeed, is one of the worst pieces of tax legislation in the nation.

Cigar Rights of America stands with such groups as the 10,000 member Connecticut Business and Industry Association, Connecticut Package Stores Association, the Distilled Spirits Council, and the Connecticut Retail Merchant's Association in opposition to this package from Governor Malloy.

More so, however, we stand with the Great American Cigar Shops™ of Connecticut.

CRA's growing Connecticut membership needs to voice its opposition to this regressive piece of legislation. 

A Wall Street Journal editorial has noted the “point of no return,” for such tax increases. The message: In fact the state will not collect as much revenue, sales will be driven to lower cost border-states and sources, the legislature will fuel the black market, and they will have the same budget hole with which they began. Call them TODAY!


Read more about the comprehensive nature of this tax package, and how legislators and concerned groups view this package here.

Read the Governor's Complete Tax Increase Package here.

Additionaly, Representative Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin has introduced H.B. 5286 in the Connecticut legislature that would also ban smoking in private clubs. He said “to insure the public is protected.”


Four members of the Maryland Senate and fourteen members of the Maryland House want to raise the tax on cigars by 533.3%!

Senate Bill 654 is being heard by the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee.

Send them a message.

1) They will send Maryland tax revenue to lower cost alternatives, such as surrounding states and the internet.

2) They will irreparably harm Maryland small businesses, with lost jobs, and closed shops.

3) This type of regressive taxation results in the same budget hole they began with, and an expanded black market for illegal products.

SB 654 and HB 853 aims to increase the OTP tax from 15 percent to 95 percent of the wholesale price, an overall increase of 533.3%. This, indeed, is one of the worst pieces of tax legislation in the nation.

CRA stands with the Premium Cigar Retailers Association of Maryland, the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association and the Maryland Great American Cigar Shops™.

CRA's growing Maryland membership needs to voice its opposition to this regressive piece of legislation. Several years ago, Maryland was the subject of a Wall Street Journal editorial, noting the “point of no return,” for such tax increases. The message: In fact the state will not collect as much revenue, sales will be driven to lower cost border-states and sources, you'll fuel the black market, and you'll end up with the same budget hole with which you began. Call them TODAY!

Maryland House of Representatives
Maryland Senate


More Progress in the Land of Lincoln

We previously noted the positive movement in Illinois with legislation to allow smoking in state owned casinos (HB 171).

Now, we can again look to Illinois with a positive note on the introduction of House Bill 1310 . Sponsored by Representative Anthony DeLuca , D-Cook County, and Representative Randy Ramey , R-DuPage County.

This week , HB 1310 advanced from the House Executive Committee on a voice vote, allowing it to be considered by the full Chamber, and enter a second reading. In addition, we are pleased to announce (and commend!) that the legislation has picked up new sponsors.

CRA wishes to thank Representatives Daniel Burke, Robert Rita, and Rita Mayfield for signing on as patrons of this progressive legislation for cigar enthusiasts in Illinois. Even to date, it's a national model in the making.

This legislation would allow for the issuing of a ‘smoking license' if certain criteria are met, such as: employee acknowledgment, establishment already holds a valid liquor license, and notable public signage.

We commend Representatives DeLuca and Ramey for their leadership on this issue, and now their colleagues Rep. Burke, Rita and Mayfield for their support . We're asking CRA's Illinois membership from the retail tobacconist to the cigar enthusiast to support this legislation, along with the casino exemption, to bring some liberty back to the Land of Lincoln. Also, please thank these patrons of such great legislation. They need to know they have friends that appreciate their efforts.

Illinois House of Representatives
Illinois Senate

Rep. Daniel Burke - http://www.ilga.gov/house/Rep.asp?GA=97&MemberID=1587

Rep. Robert Rita - http://www.ilga.gov/house/Rep.asp?GA=97&MemberID=1673

Rep. Rita Mayfield - http://www.ilga.gov/house/Rep.asp?GA=97&MemberID=1761


The State of Washington Still Needs Our Help!

Positive Legislation has been Introduced to Restore some Cigar Freedom. The motto for the State of Washington is a Chinook Indian word Alki, which means "Hope for the Future."

Based upon the introduction of House Bill 1683 by nine members of the House of Representatives, and Senate Bill 5542 by seven members of the Washington State Senate, there could indeed, be "hope for the future" - at least in terms of enjoying a cigar.

CRA joins the Cigar Association of Washington and IPCPR in supporting this legislation. We also believe it could be a model for other states that have stringent anti-smoking laws.

The legislation calls for upgraded and distinct ventilation, a fee structure that would prevent wide spread awarding of a limited number of licenses, is for cigars only, employee waiver language, signage requirements, and an age 18 restriction. In other words, it's a well thought out piece of legislation. So naturally, the state and local Health Departments are fighting it. We need to do our part.

The Senate Committee on Labor, Commerce & Consumer Protection referred the bill to the Senate Ways & Means Committee, and the House Committee on Business & Financial Services recently advanced the bill (on a 10-3 vote) also referring the legislation to the House Committee on Ways & Means.

Voice your support to these respective committees for HB 1683 and SB 5542!

Washington House of Representatives
Washington Senate


Four members of the Hawaii Senate came together, and have introduced Senate Bill 708. This progressive measure would once again allow for smoking in establishments with a select class of liquor license, and meet public signage requirements. Hawaii Senators Mike Gabbard, Suzanne Chun Oakland, Brickwood Galuteria, and Pohai Ryan came together to sponsor the legislation. Although currently deferred in committee, the fact that these four members of the Senate crafted and introduced such a bill is outstanding, and gives hope for the cause in Hawaii . These members of the Senate and the legislature itself deserve our support.


Progress is still alive in Minnesota where a great coalition of Representatives and Senators has come together for new exemptions to the state smoking ban law, through House legislation 0188 and Senate bill 0168. Representatives Tom Hackbarth, Larry Howes, Tom Rukavina, Bruce Anderson, and Mark Buesgens, have joined forces with Senators Michael Jungbauer, Sean Nienow, Chris Gerlach, Linda Scheid, and Ray Vandeveer to sponsor this legislation. Minnesota has a strong base of CRA members, and the legislature needs to hear from you. Contact your member of the House and Senate TODAY! Here's how to find them:

Minnesota House of Representatives
Minnesota Senate


Though nothing formal has been introduced yet, there are serious rumblings about expanding the smoking ban in Arkansas. Adopted when Fox News commentator and Presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee was governor, current state Senator Tracy Steele has said he is willing sponsor legislation that would remove the exemption for bars and restaurants that exclude those under the age of 21, workplaces with fewer than three employees, retail tobacco stores, along with other exemptions. The opposition has already mounted a public relations campaign, and we need to let the Arkansas legislature know that they need to leave current state law alone. Tell your member of the Arkansas legislature to LEAVE CURRENT STATE LAW ALONE.

Arkansas House of Representatives
Arkansas Senate

South Carolina

While local governments keep tinkering with smoking bans in South Carolina, there has been an appreciation for freedom at the statewide level. We all want it to stay that way. However, House members Todd Rutherford, Lonnie Hosey and Joe McEachern want to take that away. They have each filed identical bills in the form of HB 3033, 3022, and 3015. The bills are in the House Judiciary Committee, and we hope they will be defeated there. Contact your member of the South Carolina legislature, and tell them "No Statewide Smoking Ban in SC!"

South Carolina House of Representatives
South Carolina Senate


Indiana House member Charlie Brown is at it again with HB 1018. Although this House version has been greatly amended, it still needs to be defeated. The companion Senate version (SB 355) doesn't seem to have traction in the Senate Committee on Public Policy, but we can take nothing for granted. Contact your member of the Indiana House (and especially Senate) and ask them to vote AGAINST HB 1018 (and SB 355 if it is revived) and KEEP A STATEWIDE SMOKING BAN OUT OF INDIANA!

Indiana House of Representatives
Indiana Senate


We previously alerted our vast Florida membership to the legislation introduced by Naples Representative Kathleen Passidomo (HB 211). Now, new Florida state Senator Alan Hayes, R-Umatilla, has introduced a companion bill in the form of SB 1070. This would allow local governments to supercede state law with regard to banning outdoor smoking. This type of back door legislating of smoking regulations needs to stop. Please sign the current CRA on-line petition, and let your member of the Florida legislature know, KEEP FLORIDA LOCAL GOVERNMENTS OUT OF THE SMOKING BAN BUSINESS.

Florida House of Representatives
Florida Senate


Kentucky State Representative Susan Westrom, D-Lexington has filed HB 193, along with eight other patrons that calls for a statewide smoking ban in Kentucky , with no exemptions of any type. Whereas these matters have a way of taking on a life of their own, and all should be taken seriously, we believe that our Kentucky membership should contact their Representative and Senator, and tell them to defeat HB 193. Here's how to contact them - http://www.lrc.ky.gov/Legislators.htm

Additionally, eleven members of the Kentucky House of Representatives have sponsored HB 318. The bill aims to increase the tax rate on OTP (cigars) from 15 percent to 27.5 percent, an overall increase of 83.3 percent!

The bill is in the 2011 Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue.

Our growing Kentucky membership needs to contact its member of the Kentucky House and Senate. Here's the listing to find your member:

Kentucky House of Representatives
Kentucky Senate


Representative Anna Blodgett, D-Augusta wants to ban smoking in one of the last refuges for freedom in Maine . Her legislation would ban smoking in private clubs. That's right, “private” clubs.

Also in Maine , legislation has been filed by Representative Les Fossel, R-Alna to raise the legal age to “possess” tobacco, from 18 to 21.


A different type of threat looms for cigar enthusiasts in Oklahoma. House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee is sponsoring legislation, supported by the Tobacco Free Coalition and the Oklahoma Municipal League, which would allow for local control over tobacco policy and restrictions. This would hence allow localities across Oklahoma to adopt more stringent controls than exist at the state level. It must be defeated.

Send a message to your member:

Oklahoma House of Representatives
Oklahoma State Legislature

West Virginia


Four members of the West Virginia House and four members of the West Virginia Senate have filed HB 2973 and SB 362. This legislation would increase the excise tax on other tobacco products by 43% of the wholesale price of each item (from 7% to 50% of the wholesale price).

CRA's West Virginia membership needs to voice its opposition to this proposed tax increase IMMEDIATELY. Here's how to get in touch with your member:

West Virginia House of Representatives
West Virginia Senate


Nebraska Senator Mike Gloor has introduced LB 436 to increase the OTP tax rate from 20% to 65%, hoping to raise $10 million.

CRA's Nebraska membership needs to contact its membership in the legislature to voice opposition to LB 436! Here's how to find your member:

Nebraska Senate

New Mexico

New Mexico State Senator Dede Feldman has introduced a tobacco/OTP tax increase measure that would increase the tax on cigars from 25% to 57%, in the form of SB 81.

CRA New Mexico members need to voice their opposition to SB 81 (and this 128% proposed tax increase) to the Senate Corporations & Transportation Committee.

Also, contact your member of the New Mexico House and Senate.


Representative Bob Evans of Mississippi has introduced HB 114, which would increase the OTP tax on cigars to 22.5% of manufacturer's list price, from the current rate of 15% of wholesale.

Mississippi 's growing CRA membership needs to voice its opposition to this proposed tax increase. Here's how to find your member:

Mississippi House of Representatives
Mississippi Senate


Governor John Kitzhaber has requested legislation that would increase the OTP in Oregon, but the bill includes a 50 cent tax cap on cigars.

We remain more concerned about HB 2385 in Oregon that would allow counties to impose their own excise tax on tobacco products. It was introduced at the request of the House Interim Committee on Public Health.

CRA's Oregon membership needs to oppose any expansion of tobacco taxation. Here's how to contact you member:

Oregon House of Representatives
Oregon Senate

New York

Not a Tax Increase – But Tax Legislation That's Needed

The State of New York imposed a dramatic and regressive tax increase last year of an OTP rate of 75% on cigars that is adversely impacting the bottom line for retail tobacconists throughout New York, as well as the patrons of New York 's Great American Cigar Shops™. There is a legislative response to this tax increase.

CRA commends Assemblywoman Michelle Shimel and Assemblyman Michael DenDekker for sponsoring A 1093 , and Senators Martin Golden and Tom Libous for sponsoring SB 3410 that would implement a $1 tax cap on cigars in New York .

The vast New York CRA membership needs to voice its SUPPORT for A 1093 and SB 3410 with your member of the New York legislature. Here's how to locate your member:

New York House of Representatives
New York Senate


CRA Needs Your Help!

In order to be successful in our fight to enjoy cigars without the threat of smoking bans and high taxation, CRA needs your help. Please consider partnering with CRA through two important methods:

There is strength in numbers! The more members CRA has, the greater voice we have at all levels of legislature. Please help CRA by asking your fellow cigar enthusiasts to join CRA today! Membership starts as low as $35/year.

Our fight around the country is very expensive. We would like to ask all CRA members and cigar enthusiasts to consider making a donation to CRA in any amount you choose.