Photo by Nicole Jennings

Photo by Nicole Jennings

Proposed law would make tampons free for some college students

The bill would ensure that those with low incomes can have access to clean products, say proponents.

Washington state lawmakers are considering a bill that would require community and technical colleges to provide free tampons or sanitary pads to students. Representatives in the House Higher Education Committee passed the bill out of committee on Wednesday.

“It smartly identifies something that should not have taken us this long to identify,” said Representative Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, chair of the House Higher Education Committee.

Representative Melanie Stambaugh, R-Puyallup, the bill’s prime sponsor, said HB 2863 ensures that those with low incomes can have access to clean products.

She got the idea for the bill from a Pierce College student who raised concerns about the costs of the products, the impact on low-income students, and a debit card culture in which students often do not have quarters to pay for tampon dispenser machines in women’s restrooms.

Stambaugh said that other colleges and four year universities around the state offer limited free feminine products in women’s restrooms. The University of Washington Seattle campus has a similar need-based system in place in many women’s restrooms. She asked lawmakers to also consider adding four year universities to the bill.

“We support the positive impact that this bill would have on our female students, especially those that are low income and are experiencing homelessness,” said Erin Frasier, policy associate for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

Frasier asked the committee to consider funding the products for community and technical colleges. A hearing in the appropriations committee is not yet scheduled.

“This bill is asking for a small price that will go a long way in students lives,” said Leah Mobley, legislative liaison for the Associated Students of Central Washington University.

She said that the average woman spends anywhere between $60 and $200 per year on feminine hygiene products depending on personal needs. She said it doesn’t seem like much to some people, but for a low income college student already paying for tuition, housing, and books, it can be a hefty price.

According to 2016 Global Industry Analysts, the feminine hygiene market is worth $5.9 billion and is expected to grow to $6.2 billion by the year 2020.

Washington State includes feminine hygiene products like tampons and pads in its sales tax. As of January 2017, five states have no sales tax and seven states exempt menstrual products from their sales tax.

HB 1265, also sponsored by Stambaugh, would exempt tampons and pads from the state’s sales tax. The bill was introduced last year but has not yet had a hearing.

This report was produced by the Olympia bureau of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.

More in Northwest

Exit poll indicates Washington voters still support climate change action

State environmental organizations’ poll points to continuing support for carbon-reducing measures.

Attendees gather after the Dec. 21, 2018, meeting at Seattle’s Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center.
Washington indigenous communities push for action to address violence against women

A new law seeks to strength data collection on missing and murdered indigenous women.

Wikimedia Commons CFCF photo
Proposed law would raise age limit for tobacco sales in WA

Lawmakers cite health concerns over tobacco and vape products

Gift creates Karalis Johnson Retina Center at UW Medicine in Seattle

Donor is passionate about finding a cure for macular degeneration

AR-15 rifle and a loaded magazine that were recovered from a suspect in a shooting incident at the Kent Station parking garage. Photo courtesy of King County Sheriff’s Office
Democrats to focus on 30-round magazines and ghost guns in 2019

Following gun control success on the November ballot, state Democrats are eyeing further regulation.

Rape allegation against Sen. Joe Fain divides King County Council

In a recent interview, Councilmember Kathy Lambert blamed Fain’s accuser for the alleged rape. Then Lambert’s colleagues distanced themselves from her comments.

Safeco Field. FILE PHOTO
King County’s Safeco funding package might go to referendum vote

The initiative, filed by a group called “Citizens Against Sports Stadium Subsidies” could put the $135 million spending plan on the ballot early next year

Palouse wind farm in Eastern Washington. COURTESY PHOTO, Chris Weber, Flickr Creative Commons
Report reveals inequities of climate change in Washington

The poor and communities of color are affected the worst, according to UW study

Photo by Cacophony/Wikipedia Commons
Safeco Field will get a new name next year

Seattle Mariners could make more than $100 million from naming rights.

The man on Iron Mountain

Chuck Pillon has been living on a 10-acre junk-filled property near Renton for decades.

Safe consumption part 3: The opposite of addiction

Final episode of our three-part series on controversial supervised consumption sites

Safe consumption: The debate

In the first of a three-part series, we enter into the heated, emotional, and sometimes bitter debate around one of the most controversial policy proposals in the country.