House committee passes bill allowing schools to give out free period products

Florida Politics | By Gabrielle Russon | April 11, 2023

‘I’m confident most women can relate to their period starting unexpectedly and at the most inconvenient time and location,’ Rep. Kelly Skidmore said.

A bill that would allow public schools to provide free period products for students advanced through a House committee.

The Education & Employment Committee approved HB 389. The Senate is also considering a similar bill (SB 334).

One in four students missed class because they didn’t have access to period products, said one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Kelly Skidmore, during Tuesday’s hearing.

“I’m confident most women can relate to their period starting unexpectedly and at the most inconvenient time and location,” Skidmore said. “For girls in school, it is no different and they shouldn’t be deprived of attending class and furthering their education five days out of every month.”

Under the House bill, public schools are allowed to give free tampons and sanitary napkins in places such as the school nurse’s office and restrooms. Schools are required to post notices where students can get the supplies.

The Democrat from Boca Raton called her bill “a compromise” to her original bill that would have required districts to provide free period products in 25% of the girls restrooms.

“The new version simply allows school districts to make menstrual hygiene products available in each school at no charge and stipulates where hygiene products may be located,” Skidmore said.

Skidmore pointed to 15 other states and Washington, D.C., that have passed similar legislation to offer free menstrual products.

Previous attempts to pass a law in Florida have failed, although lawmakers created new legislation in 2019 that requires prisons to provide free period products for female inmates. The state also repealed taxes on menstrual products in 2017 under a bill that was sponsored by now-Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.

Rep. Susan Valdés praised Skidmore’s bill.

“It’s such a need out there,” the Democrat from Tampa said. “You would think that these products would be easily accessible and they’re not. … I’m glad to support this bill.”

Skidmore said the bill encourages schools to limit the cost by partnering with nonprofits, businesses and educational foundations to get the supplies.

The public-private partnership is an important part of the bill, said Republican Rep. Fabián Basabe who added, “I’m really impressed with your bill and with our work collectively.”

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