The Missouri House is considering legislation that would provide free tampons to inmates, but it may not make it out of committee because of political infighting.
During a recent Corrections and Public Institutions Committee hearing on the bill, Chairman Andrew McDaniel, R-Deering, asked members to vote whether to send the measure out of committee to the full House. Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, supported the bill but said he wanted to have an amendment drafted beforehand. McDaniel said Aldridge could offer an amendment on the House floor, but he wasn’t holding another hearing for weeks.
“If we don’t vote on this stuff today, I won’t hold another committee hearing until the end of April, so this bill will be dead,” McDaniel said.
Rep. Kim Collins, D-St. Louis, pressed McDaniel.
Collins said: “Am I allowed to ask why?” And McDaniel replied: “It’s politics. I’m just being honest.”
McDaniel could not be reached for comment about the decision.
When Aldridge pointed out that any bill that would be heard in committee at the end of April likely wouldn’t make it through the 2021 session that ends in May, McDaniel said that was the choice of the members who didn’t feel prepared to vote on proposals at that time.
Collins, who said she has several bills that have not yet been referred to the committee, was disappointed by the decision.
“In the middle of a pandemic, this committee is so important,” Collins said. “To let months and weeks go by to not have a meeting, there’s just so much we can accomplish in this committee.”
This committee deals with issues related to the Department of Corrections, including getting inmates the coronavirus vaccine.
The tampon proposal has bipartisan support, and those in favor say it’s about restoring dignity for inmates. Liza Weiss, executive director of Missouri Appleseed, said not providing feminine products for free is also a health risk.
“In the Department of Corrections, when tampons aren’t provided, over 80% of the women reported making their own homemade tampons and of those, 27% reported infections,” Weiss said. “We had similar data for St. Louis County.”
The bill sponsor, Bruce DeGroot, R-Ellisville, said there will be some cost to the state — about $200,000 — but it’s worth it.
“It truly is such an insignificant amount of our whole budget to give just a small amount of dignity,” DeGroot said.
Those championing the proposal still think they’ll be able to get it passed before the end of session in May.