Congressman Jim Cooper

Representing the 5th District of Tennessee
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May 6, 2012
Press Release

May 8, 2012

Says bill would clarify law so that "we can have healthy forests and legal guitars"

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) testified before a House subcommittee today about his bill to clarify a broad federal law so that musicians, instrument retailers and resellers would no longer be subject to penalties for unknowingly possessing illegal woods.

Cooper introduced the Retailers and Entertainers Lacey Implementation and Enforcement Fairness (RELIEF) Act in Oct. 2011 with Reps. Marsha Blackburn (TN-07) and Mary Bono Mack (CA-45) to clarify the Lacey Act. The Lacey Act has been effective in targeting illegal logging but threatens musicians, antique dealers, instrument manufacturers, and anyone else whose products contain rare plant materials or wood.

In his testimony before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs, Cooper said:     

"Helping musicians like Vince Gill and Ricky Skaggs is the primary impetus of our legislation because all Americans have the constitutional right to travel. Musicians are denied that right if they cannot travel with their old instruments. 

"... not only are musicians and music stores in jeopardy, but other legitimate businesses such as antique dealers and lumber importers. We can help these innocent people without harming the worthy environmental goals of the Lacey Act. We can have healthy forests and legal guitars."

 The RELIEF Act (H.R. 3210) has drawn support from music, hardwood, business, retail and environmental groups; a full list of supporters is attached.

More information about the RELIEF Act is attached and available online, including Cooper's full testimony, a one-page summary and FAQs