BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A proposal to exempt diapers and tampons from Louisiana’s state sales tax stalled Wednesday in the Senate, only to be revived later in a different form and successfully sent to the House for debate.
Sen. J.P. Morrell, a New Orleans Democrat, proposed a constitutional change to remove the 4.45 percent state sales tax from diapers and feminine hygiene products starting in 2021.
Senators refused to include that exemption in the state constitution. The Senate voted 21-12 for the measure, but it needed 26 votes to pass because constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote.
But later in the day, after stymieing the constitutional change, senators agreed to include the tax break in statute . That law change passed in a 29-5 vote , moving to the House for consideration.
Morrell said the items are essential to women and children, in line with prescription drugs, which are exempt from sales tax.
“They are not an option. You have to have them. They are not a luxury,” Morrell said. “I think this is a moral issue.”
He described poor parents changing their children’s diapers in stores by stealing them because they can’t afford the expense.
Opponents cited the tax break’s cost, estimated at nearly $10 million a year.
Sen. Barrow Peacock, a Shreveport Republican, said that would take away dollars from education and health care programs. Sen. Sharon Hewitt, a Slidell Republican, voted against the measure, saying the exemption would offer only small relief to households.
“I just don’t think that this is a good way to go,” Hewitt said.
Morrell said he objected to colleagues who talk about “protecting babies” during abortion debates, but vote against helping parents diaper their children.
“The level of hypocrisy is staggering,” he said, shouting.
Senate Bills 4 and 5: www.legis.la.gov