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House panel approves sales tax exemption for tampons, diapers

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A panel of House members has approved a bill that would exempt diapers, baby formula and feminine hygiene products from state sales tax, but not before an exchange in which a female lawmaker promised a colleague to tell him all about feminine hygiene products in “private.”

The House Ways and Means Committee passed HB2418 on a 6-3 vote this afternoon.

HB2418, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson, would exempt tampons, sanitary napkins, menstrual sponges and cups, baby formula and diapers from the state sales tax. An amendment from Rep. Mark Cardenas, D-Phoenix, sets the exemption to expire in 2026.

The bill was also assigned to the House Health committee, where it hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing. Since this week is the deadline to hear bills in committees, HB2418 might be dead, unless its backers can convince leadership to release it from the health committee.

Hernandez said a constituent brought him the idea for the bill because such products are already expensive, even for dual-income households.

A handful of states don’t tax feminine hygiene products. In 2015, Canada ended its tax on feminine hygiene products following a widely-circulated petition effort.

The so-called “tampon tax” has become a piece of “viral legislation,” with several states introducing the idea in the past few years, according to New York Magazine.

Some states also exempt essentials like diapers, baby wipes or formula from sales taxes.

Rep. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, said personal responsibility needs to be taken into consideration when people become parents.

“Somewhere along the line, life is life,” he said.

But the most interesting exchange occurred between Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, and his seatmate, Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale.

Lawrence asked what exactly feminine hygiene products would entail. Ugenti-Rita, the committee’s chairwoman, replied: “We can have a private conversation and I’ll tell you what all the feminine products are.”

Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, voted no, citing concerns over taking money out of the general fund when increasing teacher salaries is a hot topic at the Capitol.

Cardenas noted that the Legislature has deemed it fit to exempt Viagra from the sales tax, so the bill levels the playing field a bit.

Lawrence voted yes, and noted that he has to go home to four women.

“I’ve got a houseful. I have to go home and tell them how I voted on this particular bill,” he said.

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