By Mary McCune & Kristi Thielen
In 2016, the Fem Dems rallied for AB 1561 (Garcia), most commonly known as the “Tampon Tax.” As the name implies, the bill would remove the tax on feminine hygiene products like tampons and sanitary products. While the bill sailed through several committees without objection and eventually passed both houses, it was ultimately vetoed by Governor Brown, who stated that the tax elimination and substitution of tax revenues should go through the budget process. In response to Governor Brown’s veto message, Asm. Garcia explained upon receiving her award that finding alternative sources of tax revenue shouldn’t be her job as author of this bill, since these taxes should have never existed. Because of her valiant effort in championing the elimination of tax codes that are discriminatory and have a disparate effect on poor women, the Fem Dems named Assemblymember Cristina Garcia “Legislator of the Year” in 2016.
Fast forward to 2017, Asm. Garcia is continuing her anti-tampon tax efforts from last year by introducing AB 9, a second attempt at eliminating taxes on tampons and other sanitary products. Additionally, Asm. Garcia teaming up with social justice champion, Asm. Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, on AB 479, a bill imposing new taxes on liquor. This bill would address Governor Brown’s insistence from last year that a tax revenue replacement must be secured for Asm. Garcia's proposed tax exemption. The goal of implementing new taxes would hopefully secure a funding source to replace the more than $20 million spent annually in California on tampons and sanitary napkins and diapers.
Why is this important?
Firstly, “tampon taxes” are not congruent with our current tax scheme.
California’s tax code exempts health items like walkers, medical identification tags, and prescription medication, including Viagra. However, tampons and sanitary napkins are not. According to the tax code, tampons and sanitary napkins are not a “necessity to life.” I’m sure all women would beg to differ. Unlike Viagra, tampons and sanitary napkins are needed by women of all ages, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds every month. This tax is unfair and inconsistent with the current tax code.
Secondly, these taxes disproportionately affect women, especially poor women.
Women cannot choose to have their periods and their periods certainly don’t stop if they are homeless or do not have the money to buy tampons or sanitary napkins. Women already earn less than men in California -- this is just another discriminatory law that burdens women for something they cannot control. There are plenty of studies to illustrate this, with the pay gap widening more for women of color, disabled, and members of the LGBT community. This means that every penny counts, and the $20 million spent annually in California on tampons and sanitary napkins could be used for other essentials like food or rent.
So what’s going on now?
AB 9 is currently “stalled in committee.” Most bills go through at least one committee before heading to the Assembly or Senate floor in order to vet issues under different lenses. The bill can take on various changes with the idealist intention that the bill content is more viable to pass a floor vote. AB 9 was set to be heard in Assembly Revenue & Taxation on Monday, March 13, but was pulled hours before the hearing. This is likely because Asm. Garcia refused to take an amendment that would allow counties and local governments the option to still impose taxes on these products despite already agreeing to amend her bill to have a 5-year sunset provision.
“No one should be allowed to tax us for being born with uteruses,” Asm. Garcia stated.
And she’s right. Women should not be taxed on any level of government -- state or local -- for having a period. As a reminder, periods are not a choice and our tax code and laws should reflect that.
What can you do?
1. WRITE LETTERS
While a new hearing date has not yet been set at the time of this writing, we encourage Fem Dems to start drafting their support letters to:
Attn: Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, Chair
Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee
1020 N Street, Room 167A
Sacramento, CA 95814
Please send us copies of your letters at email@example.com so we can highlight them and inspire other Fem Dems and supporters across the state to do the same. Check out our support letter here to help you get started.
2. GET LOUD ON SOCIAL MEDIA
You can also tweet at Chairman Ridley-Thomas, expressing your desire to move the bill forward as was intended.
@SebastianMRT: Periods aren’t scary, but taxes on tampons are. Eliminate the #TamponTax.
@SebastianMRT, removal of the #tampontax would do great things for the #women in your district & the rest of #CA.
@SebastianMRT tampons are expensive, the #tampontax makes it even more so. You don’t have to pay it, but women in your life & district do.
3. STAY CONNECTED
The Fem Dems will continue to update membership about upcoming opportunities to submit letters, as well as provide committee times for folks to come to the Capitol and testify in support of AB 9. Follow us on Facebook here or subscribe to our newsletter here.