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For second time Michigan bill seeks to remove tampon tax

February 9, 2017
on Jan. 21, 2017 at the Capital Building in Lansing. Activists gathered and expressed their opinions.
on Jan. 21, 2017 at the Capital Building in Lansing. Activists gathered and expressed their opinions. —
Photo by Jon Famurewa | and Jon Famurewa The State News

Last month, Michigan State representatives Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) and Brian K. Elder (D-Bay City) and state senators David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights) and Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) introduced legislation to remove the sales and use taxes on feminine hygiene products in Michigan, specifically including what would include tampons and sanitary napkins among other products. 

This year, Senator Knezek introduced a legislation entitled Senate Bill 92, which similarly sought to remove the “use tax” on feminine hygiene products. 

Warren, the bill’s primary sponsor, said she was disappointed the bill didn’t move along in last year’s session. 

Warren said she believes the bill didn’t get the attention necessary because of the height of the 2016 presidential campaign lame duck session.

“So we reintroduced them, this time with some nice bipartisan support,” Warren said.

Michigan Senator Rick Jones (R-Lansing) cosponsored the bill.

“I believe that this is a medical product that women need, and we already don’t tax medicine and some medical products in Michigan and (these) feminine hygiene products are a medical product, and I cosponsored the bill, I support it and I agree it with,” Jones said.

In 2016 there was a surge in legislation calling for other states to repeal the tax. Legislation was introduced to remove it in Wisconsin, Utah, California while two bills combined with a lawsuit in Ohio.

States like Connecticut and Michigan brought it back from their previous sessions. Utah rejected the bill and California’s Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a version of this legislation last year.

“If it came to my committee, I would pass it on by tomorrow,” Jones said. “I assume it will probably go to the tax committee, and that would be up to Sen. (Jack) Brandenburg.”

The tax levied seemed to be a matter of semantics however as feminine hygiene products were labled as a "luxury item" instead of as a necessary product.

“Feminine hygiene products are a class of products that have never been coded that way — they were actually coded as a luxury item and not a medically necessary item,” Warren said. “I don’t think have any women of reproductive age who would say that their feminine hygiene products are not a medically necessary item.”

Warren referred to states and countries, including Canada, that have questioned a sales tax on necessary medical items.

She said they’ve received a lot of interest this year and are excited to be raising attention to the issue and the upcoming city hearing.

Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing) said he believes this bill is important because feminine hygiene products are medically necessary and therefore shouldn’t be taxed.

“It’s not a luxury item as it’s unfortunately classified under today’s law, and I don’t think anyone would consider it a luxury item, and because of that I believe it’s completely reasonable to exempt it from sales tax," Hertel said.

Hertel said he believes there weren’t many women in legislature two decades ago, and the male-dominated legislature wasn’t considering anything like this.

“Mostly men wrote the original tax code, I’m sure they weren’t thinking about women’s feminine products during that drafting process,” Hertel said. “But this bill isn’t a new idea — it was introduced at the last session and unfortunately did not move, and we’re going to continue pushing it.”

Hertel anticipates support from both parties, as during the bill’s introduction last session there were no hearings given by Republicans.

“I guess we’ll wait and see,” he said.

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