A bill to abolish Texas’ pink tax is tabled for the fourth time

Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) has introduced a bipartisan bill to increase taxes on menstrual products for three terms, and failed each time to make it into the House of Representatives or the Senate.

This year she’s getting a head start.

Howard tabled a bill to abolish the so-called “pink tax” on Monday, the first day of the legislative session. That means she has a lower invoice number than in previous years.

Early filing doesn’t necessarily give Howard the benefit of making her bill a priority, but it does mean she can start rallying support for it.

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State Rep. Donna Howard, pictured here at the Capitol in 2019, introduced a bill Monday to eliminate the Feminine Hygiene Product Tax in Texas. It’s her fourth try.

“We have tax exemptions on a variety of other products that aren’t medically necessary, that aren’t required to go to school and to go to work and to make sure you have the protection you need,” Howard told KUT. “It’s something that all women use for a good chunk of their lives. … Therefore it is a discriminatory tax.”

Schoolhouse Rock does a damn good job of explaining how a bill becomes law, but it misses many steps as far as the Texas legislature is concerned.

After a bill is tabled, it is assigned to a committee. The committee chairperson decides which bills will be considered and in what order. If a bill is debated late in the session, it’s unlikely to make it to the full House or Senate vote — something that has happened with Howard’s bills in the last three sessions.

If their 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 leave someone vulnerable to infection and potentially cause medical harm,” she said. “So really, there’s no reason for us to raise this tax.”

The co-founder of the Texas Menstrual Equity Coalition said she believes the tax will remain in place because of the large amount of revenue it can bring to the state.

“You can count on women who are menstruating to have their periods every month, so that’s reliable revenue for the government,” Andrea Elizondo said.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hager reported that taxes on feminine hygiene products bring in $28.6 million annually, but even he advocates eliminating them.

“Texas can easily absorb these revenue shortfalls, but for countless Texas women, this represents significant savings in their personal budgets over time,” the Republican said in a expression in August. “This is a small amount of money compared to the total revenue for Texas.”

Hager isn’t the only Republican supporting the legislation. Gov. Greg Abbott also said this summer that if it passes, he will sign it into law.

Elizondo said the coalition believes this could be the year when the tax is scrapped.

“We’re hoping that with the menstrual legislation that’s been tabled at this early stage, it could happen,” she said.