BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana Senate killed a bill Wednesday, May 8 that would have allowed voters to decide if feminine hygiene products and diapers should be exempt from state sales tax.
It would have cost the state around $10 million each year to forgive that tax, which is the primary reason lawmakers said they were voting against the measure on the Senate floor. The bill fell five votes short of the two-thirds majority threshold a constitutional amendment must meet to pass.
“We’ve established in our constitution that we do not tax items that are deemed essential to the life, liberty, and happiness of our citizens,” Morrell said during committee debate on the issue. "Feminine hygiene products and diapers are simply not optional. If you need those items, you need those items.”
The state currently exempts prescription medicine, utilities, and food for home consumption from state sales taxing. Morrell’s bill would have allowed local governments to decide whether they want to collect the tax on diapers and feminine hygiene products, or exempt it themselves.
Morrell filed similar legislation in the past, but it failed because of budget concerns. This time, he had hoped to use state surplus money to pay for it beginning in 2020.
The Senate also killed another Morrell bill that would have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, which has been hanging in legal limbo for decades. There’s some debate about the effectiveness of the law and whether ratification can take place decades after an amendment to the U.S. Constitution is proposed.
Sen. Beth Mizell, the chair of the legislative women’s caucus, rose in opposition to the bill, saying she feared it could expand access to abortions. Morrell said he did not believe that was the case.
“I’m standing here as a woman in Louisiana that, 100 years ago, could not have voted,” Mizell said. “And I’m a state senator. I believe I have the rights to accomplish what I set out for.”
After the Senate killed his ratification bill over those abortion concerns, Morrell accused his colleagues of “staggering" hypocrisy for criticizing his diaper exemption’s price tag.
“Don’t sit up here and talk to us about how important babies are to this state and how important it is to protect the right of people to have babies, and then say it costs too much when it’s our time to make sure they can afford diapers," he said in a frustrated tone.