March 8, 2023

Bill to provide free menstrual products in schools clears Senate committee

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse Wikicommons.

The Senate Education Committee passed a bill that will make menstrual products free in public schools in New Mexico by a vote of 5 to 1 on Wednesday.

Sponsored by state Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, HB 134, would require a product dispensing machine to be put into every girl’s bathroom in elementary, middle school and high school in New Mexico, including charter schools. Menstrual Products in School Bathrooms will also require one product dispensary to go in one boy’s bathroom in each school. A $1.2 million appropriation is already in HB 2, the budget bill, to make these products available to students and place the dispensing machines into the schools.

Some Republicans have fought over the issue of a dispensing machine going into boy’s bathrooms. The bill was heard on the House floor earlier this week, where it passed by a vote of 42 to20. But state Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, tried to amend the bill to remove the boy bathroom requirement. The amendment failed..

During the Senate Education Committee discussion, state Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, said she was comfortable with a gender neutral bathroom in the schools where dispensing machines would go but that she wasn’t comfortable with the machines going into boy’s bathrooms. She asked if a problem might occur if too many students took too many products.

State Sen. Leo Jaramillo, D-Española, who sits on the Senate Education Committee, responded to Kernan’s question by saying that “what we see with financial insecurity is they take more products the first few months.”

“When they realize it’s consistently available, students understand to only take what they need. They can only access these products when they’re at school,” Jaramillo said.

Kernan said she didn’t object to more money being appropriated for the program and she didn’t object to students taking the products home. But she still objected to the boy bathroom requirement. Her vote was the sole negative in the committee.

The bill heads next to the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee.