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Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, confers with Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, during debate Wednesday, May 16, 2018 over the state's construction budget.

After several tries over the years, legislation to exempt diapers and feminine hygiene products from state sales taxes cleared its first hurdle Monday.

The Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs committee approved without objection Senate Bill 4. SB4 would ask voters statewide to decide whether to include those items as constitutionally protected exemptions, like food and prescription drugs.

Senate Bill 5, the statutory schematics if the constitutional amendment is approved by the voters, also would allow local governments to decide on their own whether to impose local sales taxes, just as is the situation for prescriptions.

“It’s kind of offensive that we don’t tax Viagra, as a prescription, but we tax mothers when they buy tampons and diapers,” said New Orleans Democratic Sen. JP Morrell, who chairs the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs committee. “We’ve established in our state Constitution that we do not tax items that people need … If you need those items, you need those items.”

Both bills now head to the Senate Finance Committee because of the cost associated with the exemptions.

Morrell said he hadn’t yet talked to members of the Senate Finance Committee, which has killed the bill in the past because of its nearly $10 million price tag.

“The last time we did this bill we were in a deficit. Now we are not,” he said.


Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter, @MarkBallardCnb.