Capitol Alert

California tax-free tampons bill tied up over whether cities should be included

Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market in Sacramento on June 22, 2016.
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market in Sacramento on June 22, 2016. The Associated Press

The campaign for tax-free tampons in California has hit its first roadblock of the new year.

Assembly Bill 9, which would exempt menstrual products from state and local sales taxes, was abruptly pulled from the agenda before its first hearing on Monday after the author refused to take an amendment from the committee chair that would exclude local sales taxes from the proposal.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, said she had already accepted one change to her bill that would sunset the tax exemption after five years. But she said she would not consider a request from Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, the Los Angeles Democrat who chairs the Assembly Tax and Revenue Committee, to allow local governments to keep their sales taxes on tampons and pads.

“No one should be allowed to tax us for being born with uteruses,” she said.

Despite pushing ahead with the bill, Garcia said she was frustrated to find out Monday morning that Ridley-Thomas would not take up AB 9 for consideration, hours before the hearing and after two constituents had already traveled from Southern California to testify.

Garcia pursued a similar bill last year, but it was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. That measure received unanimous support at nearly every step of the legislative process, including in the Assembly Tax and Revenue Committee, where Ridley-Thomas voted for it.

His office said a quarter-percent sales tax increase passed by Los Angeles County voters last week to pay for homeless services and prevention had changed his considerations.

“The effort is meritorious. I supported the previous iteration of this measure,” Ridley-Thomas said in a statement. “The author is considering suggested amendments as I evaluate my support of Assembly Bill 9.”

A bill analysis estimated that removing sales taxes from menstrual products would reduce state and local revenues by about $22 million per year, a figure Garcia compared to “budget dust” when spread across the hundreds of cities in California. She has jointly authored another measure, Assembly Bill 479, this year to pay for the exemption, and an exemption for diapers, by raising the excise tax on hard liquor.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff