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A bill to abolish the 'pink tax' in Texas is filed for a fourth time

Feminine hygiene products are taxed in Texas. Critics say that discriminates against women, who use the products a good portion of their lives.
Forgery
/
Flickr
Feminine hygiene products are taxed in Texas. Critics say that discriminates against women, who use the products a good portion of their lives.

If Austin Rep. Donna Howard's latest bill makes it through the Legislature and becomes law, Texas will join 24 other states that don't tax feminine hygiene products.

State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) has been introducing a bipartisan bill to lift taxes on menstrual products for three legislative sessions now, and every time it has failed to make it onto the House or Senate floor.

This year, she’s giving herself a head start.

Howard filed a bill to eliminate the so-called “pink tax” on Monday, the first day of the legislative filing period. That means she got a lower bill number than she has in past years.

Filing early doesn't necessarily give Howard the edge in making her bill a priority, but it does mean she can start gathering support for it.

State Rep. Donna Howard, seen here at the Capitol in 2019, filed a bill on Monday to eliminate the tax on feminine hygiene products in Texas. It's her fourth try.
Julia Reihs
/
KUT
State Rep. Donna Howard, seen here at the Capitol in 2019, filed a bill on Monday to eliminate the tax on feminine hygiene products in Texas. It's her fourth try.

“We have tax exemptions for a variety of other products that are not medically necessary, that are not requirements for going to school and going to work and ensuring that you have the protection you need,” Howard told KUT. “This is something that all women use for a good portion of their lives. … Therefore it is a discriminatory tax.”

Schoolhouse Rock does a damn good job at explaining how a bill becomes a law, but it's missing a lot of steps as far as the Texas Legislature is concerned.

After a bill is filed, it’s assigned to a committee. The committee chair decides which bills are discussed and in what order. If a bill is discussed too late in the session, it likely won’t make it to the full House or Senate for a vote — something that’s happened to Howard’s bills during the last three sessions.

If her latest bill makes it through the Legislature and becomes law, Texas will join 24 other states that don't tax feminine hygiene products.

Howard said some people use products like rags and socks to absorb blood during their periods because they're reusable and cheaper.

"That could make someone prone to infection and could potentially cause medical harm," she said. "So really, there's no reason for us to be imposing this tax.”

The cofounder of the Texas Menstrual Equity Coalition said she believes the tax remains in place because of how much revenue it can bring in for the state.

“You can rely on women who menstruate to have a period every month, so that is a reliable revenue for the government,” Andrea Elizondo said.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hager reported that taxes on feminine hygiene products generate $28.6 million annually, but even he advocates for eliminating it.

“Texas can absorb this lost revenue easily, but for countless Texas women, this will mean significant savings in their personal budgets over time,” the Republican said in a statement in August. “This is a small amount of money relative to the overall revenue outlook for Texas.”

Hager isn't the only Republican supporting this legislation. Gov. Greg Abbott also said this summer that he would sign a bill if it passes.

Elizondo said the coalition believes this may be the year the tax is eliminated.

"We're hopeful that with the menstrual legislation filed on this early deadline, it could pass," she said.

Copyright 2022 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Haya Panjwani | Houston Public Media