Debating the Nyc's Bill that Ensures Free Menstrual Hygiene Products in Schools, Prisons and Shelters

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In June 2016, New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill that would provide free menstrual hygiene products to dispense in prisons, public schools, and homeless shelters. While most states still tax necessary menstrual hygiene products like tampons and pads, multiple states, including New York, have made legislative moves to ban the tax of these products. They include Minnesota, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Illinois, New York, and Connecticut. Oregon, Montana, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Alaska do not enforce a sales tax and are thereby excused from the taxation issue surrounding menstrual hygiene products. New York City is ground zero to provide them for free within these public institutions. California has not yet made any major legislative motions to abolish the tax on menstrual hygiene products. Estimates from the 2016 United States census have placed California’s population at slightly over 39 million residents. Estimates on California’s racial demographics described the state as a minority majority state, with approximately 62% of the population identifying with a racial or ethnic minority. According to the data, 50.3% of California’s population are women and therefore potentially affected by lack of free sanitary products in public spaces as well as economically hurt by the luxury tax on menstrual hygiene products (U.S. Census, 2016).

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The problem: Pads and tampon are not luxury items, but they are still taxed as luxury items in the state of California and several others. In one report published on January 15, 2016 for TIME Magazine, President Obama remarked that the continued sale of menstrual hygiene products as luxury items was an issue that should be addressed immediately by states (Rhodan, 2015). Under President Trump, it is even less likely that any further action or recommendation will be taken on the federal level to encourage the repeal of this product tax. While California may not have money in the budget to fund free menstrual hygiene products in all public institutions, the state can set a precedent for individual cities within its bounds to provide these products for free in public spaces by first moving to repeal the tax on menstrual hygiene products.

Work with Assemblywoman Christina Garcia (D) to reform and revise her bill on the menstrual hygiene tax. Last year, Assemblywoman Christina Garcia petitioned to pass a bill that would eliminate the inclusion of feminine hygiene products under the state of California’s luxury tax. In 2017, her bill was found to reduce tax revenue by $10.5 million, however, this may have changed for the fiscal year of 2018. Her suggestion to increase the state tax on alcohol was well founded but was delayed by the fiscal committee of the assembly until 2018, upon review. This remains a serious setback for the state of California and should be attended to by other legislators willing to work with Assemblywoman Garcia. Governor Jerry Brown (D) has vetoed a similar measure so it is essential that all legislators within the state of California work to rush Garcia’s bill should it come to the floor again in 2018 (Calfas, 2016).

Legislators should devise a new bill to remove the luxury tax on menstrual hygiene products. This means not only devising a clear bill but to publicize the bill so that it rallies public support. The economic value gained from the luxury tax on menstrual hygiene products should be weighed against other commodities that do not disproportionately affect one sex and are true luxuries, or in laying the groundwork for legalizing and axing a commodity that would offset the tax revenue lost by the ban on taxing menstrual hygiene products, like marijuana. There are multiple creative options which exist that could assist in offsetting whatever economic difference might exist after repealing this tax. Legislators should seriously entertain these options and refuse to relent even if repealing the tax causes a loss to the state’s net tax revenue. After Governor Brown’s veto of a similar bill it is clear that lost revenue is important to the incumbent governor and to California’s current budget situation.

Motivate special interest groups to appeal to Governor Brown on the necessity of this bill. Given the incumbent governor’s reaction to the bill similar to Assemblywoman Garcia’s motion to repeal the state tax on menstrual hygiene products, more public attention must be drawn, and support rallied, for the governor to sign off on either Assemblywoman Garcia’s bill in 2018 or a similar motion. All public officials’ primary motivation is to seek reelection, and if enough California residents can make obvious that repealing the luxury tax on menstrual hygiene products is a priority, the more likely it is that the governor will at least think twice before vetoing a similar bill once more. The idea behind rallying these interest groups is to draw attention and therefore pressure onto public officials to pass a bill that will repeal the luxury tax on menstrual hygiene products, even if it causes a deficit in the tax revenue stream.  

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