The U.S. House of Representatives passed last week a bill that added the CNMI, Guam, and American Samoa to the list of those protected by the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act.
H.R. 5934, sponsored by American Samoa Delegate Eni Faleomavaega, now heads to the U.S. Senate for action.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP), one of five original co-sponsors of the bill, said the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act “makes it a federal crime to ship, transport, receive, possess, sell, distribute, or purchase 10,000 or more contraband cigarettes.”
“Since the Commonwealth taxes cigarettes sold in the Northern Marianas, extending federal law to combat smuggling could help increase local revenues. The law would also protect legitimate businesses that pay the tax from unfair competition from the cheaper, untaxed contraband cigarettes,” said Sablan, who recently won his re-election bid.
Sablan also signed last week as a cosponsor of HR 6441, reauthorizing the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which provided grants for projects in the CNMI in 2010 and 2012.
“HR 6441 will keep the Foundation going through 2017 with $20 million of funding to distribute each year to conserve fish, wildlife, plants, and other natural resources,” he said.
The 2010 grants went to SeaWeb to create the “Our Laolao” marketing campaign, which aims to reduce negative impacts on the environment of the Bay, and to the Pacific Marine Resources Institute to improve coral monitoring programs.
In 2012, the foundation granted funding to Micronesian Environmental Services to evaluate the impact of various fishing methods on Rota fisheries. The Division of Environmental Quality also won monies to continue the coral reef restoration in Laolao.