Colorado lawmakers want all schools to stock free menstrual products for students

House Bill 24-1164 passed the House Education Committee with a 7-4 vote.
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Posted at 9:28 PM, Feb 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-01 00:26:17-05

DENVER — A bill that aims to provide all Colorado students with free menstrual products by 2028 passed out of the House Education Committee on Thursday after a 7-4 vote.

House Bill 24-1164, which is sponsored by Colorado Democrats, received passionate testimony during the hearing, with many supporters wearing pink. Abbie McAdams, who works with Red Equity, was one of the supporters who explained the impacts of period poverty.

“The severe inequities that everyone faces due to the costs, the lack of education, the lack of conversation around periods," McAdams said. “There's the shame element, and then there's also the element of not being able to afford products or food. You have to choose between essential items and your period.”

The idea for this bill was originally sparked by students at Arvada West High School in 2019.

“What we're trying to do here is finish the job of what those students wanted to do. Ultimately, they wanted this bill," said State Representative Brianna Titone, D - Jefferson County, a sponsor of the bill.

Titone met with the students, who wanted her to run a bill similar to HB24-1164 in 2020. Instead, Titone began laying the foundation for the bill that's now moving through the legislature.

"I said, 'Well, let's take a baby step and do a little grant program for the kids who need it the most first. And then maybe later on we can get to a better place where we can get to all the students,'" said Titone in the committee hearing.

State Representative Jenny Willford, D - Adams County, is sponsoring HB24-1164 with Titone.

“We already provide toilet paper for students. So why else wouldn't we provide menstruation products that are so necessary, that many students don't have access to otherwise?" said Willford. “The reality is that we can provide these products that students who menstruate need for a very low cost.”

The vote was split along party lines, with the four Republicans on the committee voting against the bill. They declined to interview with Denver7 on Thursday.

State Representative Meghan Lukens, D, represents a handful of rural Colorado counties. Bill sponsors believed she would vote against the measure, but the committee changed her mind.

“I'm doing my absolute best to represent rural Colorado," said Lukens. “I echo my colleagues' concerns with being philosophically opposed to grants, especially in the education space, because rural schools just get the crumbs and it's such an issue. But I also see that you all are working in good faith to address those concerns and work with rural schools... I'm struggling with the local control piece because I completely agree schools should provide these products, but to what extent should the state be mandating how they do?”

Lukens said while she is thinking of the rural school districts, she is also considering the girls that attend the schools. She voted in support of the bill and hopes to have future conversations about local control since she believes HB24-1164 will be particularly burdensome for some schools.

There were a handful of amendments made to the bill on Thursday, including extending the amount of time needed for implementation and clarifying the definition of "applicable school bathrooms."

HB24-1164 heads to the Appropriations Committee next, where the cost of the program will be considered.

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