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Tax-free tampons up for debate in Arizona Legislature

Rep. TJ Shope (R-Coolidge) (Photo by Paulina Pineda/Arizona Capitol Times)

Rep. TJ Shope (R-Coolidge) (Photo by Paulina Pineda/Arizona Capitol Times)

A Coolidge Republican whose office was flooded with tampons for his refusal to hear a bill on free feminine hygiene products last year now proposes to make them tax-free.

HB 2153 would provide the exemption through 2027.

Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, said he felt the bill simply made sense, but he didn’t take credit for the idea.

He said the co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson, educated him on the issue. Hernandez sponsored legislation seeking the exemption in the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions, but the proposal has never received a vote on the House floor.

Shope said that’s because there was a split in the Democratic caucus, running the gamut of support from those who saw  the bill as pro-woman to opposition from those who saw it as reducing the tax base for education funding.

So, this time around, Hernandez enlisted Shope to give the bill another chance.

Hernandez was not immediately available for comment.

Shope said Hernandez’s argument really hit home because of its potential impact on low-income communities who can least afford these products, communities he represents in Coolidge and Eloy.

“These are obviously things that nobody can control,” he said. “Can we live without some of these tax dollars in order to give some folks who probably really need… some relief?”

This isn’t the first time Shope has been educated about access to feminine hygiene products

As chair of the House Rules Committee in 2018, Shope declined to hear HB 2222, sponsored by Rep. Athena Salman, D–Tempe, to require the state Department of Corrections to supply an unlimited amount of feminine hygiene products to inmates for free. Shope reasoned that was an issue that DOC could handle administratively rather than one that should be dealt with in statute.

His argument did not stop advocates of the bill from mocking him online using the hashtag #letitflow and sending Shope hundreds of tampons and menstrual pads and cash donations meant for incarcerated women.

Asked whether that experience left him more open to a proposal like Hernandez’s, Shope said, “Emphatically, hell no.”

He said that was purely a stunt and one of the most “scripted” experiences he’s ever been through.

Still, he’s moved on.

And this time, he said, he expects Hernandez’s idea will get the support of Sens. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, and Paul Boyer, R-Glendale since each is expecting his first child this year.

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