Capitol Alert

Poor students will get free tampons and pads at California schools

In an effort to keep poor students attending class during their periods, California schools will provide free tampons and pads.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed Assembly Bill 10, requiring middle and high schools where at least 40 percent of students meet the federal poverty threshold to stock half their campus restrooms with free menstrual products.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia championed the measure, which she said would maintain educational access for girls who miss school because they cannot afford their own tampons and pads. The Bell Gardens Democrat created a “Tampon Barbie” to lobby her colleagues and Brown for support.

“Menstrual products are medical necessities and it is important we recognize not having access to these products impacts a young girl’s education,” Garcia said in a statement. “I’ve heard stories from many young girls that struggle with their period on a monthly basis, affecting their schooling, morale and health.”

A legislative analysis estimated it will cost millions of dollars to install tampon dispensers at schools across the state and hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to stock them. California follows Illinois, which just last month approved an even more expansive law to provide menstrual products at any school with grades 6 through 12.

Garcia has been a vocal advocate for expanding tampon access in California, including bills to remove the sales tax on menstrual products that she argues punishes women for their biology. While other states have adopted the tax exemption, Garcia’s proposal was vetoed last year by Brown and stalled this year in an Assembly committee.

AB 10 was included in a legislative package that Brown signed Thursday to “make a positive difference for women, children and families across the state.” Among the other measures was Assembly Bill 480, by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, which will provide a $30-per-month diaper assistance benefit for children under 3 years old through California’s welfare-to-work program for low-income families.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff