A national movement to challenge gender inequities in United States law has taken the Nevada Legislature by storm as two freshman legislators introduced bills challenging gender inequalities in state sales tax.
Senate Bill 415, sponsored by Sen. Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas, and Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Las Vegas, asks voters to abolish the sales and use tax on tampons, sanitary napkins and other feminine hygiene products.
“We have the honor of saying that we have more women serving in our legislature than anywhere else in the country, 40 percent of our legislature is female and I think it’s tremendous and it is only fitting that Nevada tackles gender inequality in the application of our sales tax,” Cancela said.
Products considered necessities are exempt from sales tax in the state. These products include many groceries and prescription drugs.
Feminine hygiene products are subject to Nevada’s 6.85 percent sales tax. In Clark County, the sales tax is around 8.15 percent after taking the additional county taxes into account.
In the Assembly, Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, D- Las Vegas, sponsored Assembly Bill 402, which asks voters to eliminate sales and use tax on feminine hygiene products and on diapers.
AB 402 is scheduled to be heard Thursday in the Assembly Committee on Taxation.
Both bills are aimed at eliminating the “pink tax,” a term that refers to the additional cost women pay for specific services and products.
Last Thursday, the Senate Committee on Revenue and Economic Development heard the introduction of SB 415 and testimony in favor and against the bill.
During the hearing, Cancela cited a study that said on average, women pay 7 percent more for products marketed toward women such as personal care items or clothing than products similar for men.
Cancela used the example of women paying more for a pink bicycle that is marketed towards women than for a blue bicycle targeted towards men.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies tampons as a Class II medical device.
The FDA defines a Class II medical device as “an instrument, apparatus, implement, machine, contrivance, implant, in vitro reagent, or other similar or related article, including a component part, or accessory.”
Elisa Cafferata from Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates testified in favor of the bill on Thursday and brought with her a package of pads and a package of Peeps candy. She said it was unfair that the pack of pads was taxed at her purchase and the pack of Peeps was not.
“Historically, male dominated legislatures have decided what is exempted from taxation, it’s only been recently that across the country, woman legislators have stood up and said we buy tampons and sanitary napkins, not because we want to but because we have to and we should look at the sales tax of those items,” Cancela said.
Cancela said that currently eight states have exempted feminine hygiene products from state sales tax and 20 additional states are considering legislation that would do so.
Patricia Slotnick, a registered nurse in Northern Nevada, said she worked on a nurse advice line where she received calls from many underserved, poor residents.
She said she would often receive calls from women who told her they often had to decide between buying tampons for the month or buying food or medicine.
Slotnick said the current sales tax on feminine hygiene products taxes women exclusively and is unfair.
“It may not seem like a few pennies saved in taxes would make much of a difference, but when you consider the statistics that the average woman menstruates from the ages of 12 to 50 and may use as many as 16,000 tampons during that time, those pennies add up to many dollars,” Slotnick said.
The Senate committee heard no opposition to the bill in its hearing last Thursday and made no movement on the legislation.