A Call to Exempt Menstrual Products from Sales Tax

Today (National Period Day) I’m sharing this fantastic research authored by Mikaela McSharry, a University of Vermont legislative intern who is working with me this semester. I am a strong supporter of eliminating the sales tax of period products and introduced legislation to ensure access in Vermont’s public schools.

In Vermont most clothing, bandages and surgical dressings, acne medications, children and adult diapers, disposable heating pads, formal wear, and even garters and garter belts are exempted from sales and use taxes[1]. Menstrual products are not. Access to menstrual products such as tampons, sanitary pads, and menstrual cups is a necessity for people who menstruate and is an issue of equity and dignity. By levying a sales tax on such products, the state government exacerbates inequality and imposes a serious barrier to access, especially for low-income individuals and families. 

Due to the levy of a sales tax on period products, Vermonters pay approximately $7.6 million on menstrual supplies annually – $685,000 of which is spent in sales tax. While this amount accounts for only .01% of the state’s total revenue it places a significant financial burden on individuals who menstruate: the average person who menstruates will spend $1,773.33 on tampons in their lifetime, and if they also use panty liners, that adds another $443.33 to their lifetime cost[2]. Applying the 6% state tax and the average .22% local tax the average person who menstruates in Vermont spends $137.88 in taxes on menstruation products.

While the consequential loss of revenue for the state is not negligible, it is also not a justification for the discriminatory and adverse effects of the tax standard. By exempting menstrual products from the state and local sales and use tax, the state would work to ease such issues of inequity and access for people who menstruate.

When we discuss equity around this issue of access to menstrual products, we must also look at policy to ensure that such products are provided safely and without cost to students in our public schools. For students who cannot count on such products being provided at home, periods can pose a serious obstacle to their education: For nearly one in five American teenagers who live in poverty, lack of menstrual products and support can lead to school absences or the inability to be productive and engaged in the classroom.[3] Yet another public institution that fails to properly serve Americans through menstrual product inequity is incarceration systems (jails and prisons). By denying access to such products, the state creates a culture within prisons where women and girls have to compete for menstrual supplies, endure a period without them, or are otherwise subjected to uncomfortable, unsanitary, and unsafe conditions.[4]

Ultimately, the issue of ensuring equal access to menstrual supplies is an issue of health and an issue of equity. Vermont can and must ensure that its residents maintain equitable access to necessary healthcare equipment by eliminating the sales tax applied to menstrual supplies and providing the products in public institutions like schools and incarceration facilities. Menstrual health can and must be removed from the margins in our conversations about health and healthcare access.

[1] “What Is Taxable and Exempt?” | Department of Taxes, tax.vermont.gov/exempt-items.

[2] Vermont Commission on Women. Taxation of Menstrual Supplies in Vermont Info Sheet, 2019. https://women.vermont.gov/sites/women/files/Info_Sheet_Taxation_of_Mentrual_Supplies_2019_FINAL.pdf

[3] “The Unequal Price of Periods.” American Civil Liberties Union, http://www.aclu.org/report/unequal-price-periods.

[4] Ibid.

A Call to Defund the Vermont State Police

Defund the Police, painted in yellow on the street in Washington, DC

Here is the text of an open letter to relevant House committee chairs from Representative Brian Cina, Representative Diana González, and I:

June 10, 2020

Dear Chairs Toll, Copeland-Hanzas, Grad, Lippert, and Pugh,

We are writing with appreciation for the work that went into the first quarter FY 2021 budget and with an important request for the budget that will come forward for the remainder of the fiscal year in August and September.

We believe it is time for Vermont to join the growing movement to defund police departments, in light of the historic, systematic racism and other forms of bias that are well-documented in policing and use of force. We have an opportunity to strategically align our resources with services that are better able to meet the needs of our communities and keep all Vermonters safe.

We respectfully request a cut of 20% or more to the Vermont State Police’s operating budget, with strategic re-investments to be made in one or more of the following areas:

  • Mental health crisis response services, such as those provided by street outreach teams and others;
  • Increased support for survivors of domestic and sexual violence;
  • Restorative and community justice programs;
  • Solutions to end homelessness;
  • Economic development investments in black and indigenous communities;
  • Direct support for migrant/undocumented workers who have not been able to benefit from federal COVID-19 stimulus money.

As the organization MDP150 recently wrote, in defense of their work to transition to a police-free Minneapolis,  “Decades of social science research has revealed that the biggest contributor to violent crime is poverty, while a 2016 meta analysis of hundreds of studies by Yongjei Lee, John Eck and Nicholas Corsaro found that the relationship between police force size and crime levels isn’t statistically significant.”[1] A 2017 study published in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Nature found that a decrease in proactive policing reduced major crimes.[2] We have long accepted that more policing keeps us safer, but a growing body of evidence suggests that this is not the case.

Large cities such as Minneapolis and New York are recognizing that it is time to align their budgets with their values and priorities. They are taking action to reduce police spending and realign resources. Vermont should do the same.

We call for ongoing study, conversation, and action to transition Vermont away from a model of policing as we know it and toward the creation of a true peacekeeping force that protects and assists Vermonters in times of crisis or danger, and that values and elevates the labor and expertise of frontline (and often low-paid) workers such as social workers, victim advocates, and homeless service providers. There are many evolving and inspiring models to consider. Vermont can be a leader in this work. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get started.


Rep. Selene Colburn

Rep. Brian Cina

Rep. Diana González

[1] MDP150, “Star Tribune Editorial: We Must Look Beyond Police for Community Safety,” https://www.mpd150.com/star-tribune-editorial-we-must-look-beyond-police-for-community-safety/.

[2] Christopher M. Sullivan and Zachary P. O’Keeffe, Evidence that Curtailing Proactive Policing Can Reduce Major Crime,” Nature, September 25, 2017, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-017-0211-5.

A Call to Vermont State College Trustees

Earlier this week, Progressives serving in the legislature called on Vermont State College trustees to delay their vote on VSC closures.

Dear Vermont State Colleges trustees,

We are writing to thank you for delaying your vote this Monday to close Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College campuses. Moving forward, we call on you to create space for public input about the future of the Vermont State College system.

Faculty, students, staff, elected officials and the public need more than three days to respond to this proposal, particularly given that it was drafted in private, with no input from these groups.

These closures would have devastating economic consequences in some of Vermont’s poorest rural communities. Students throughout the state will have less access to educational and vocational training opportunities and 500 union jobs will be lost. We know that education is one of our most important economic development tools. We’re going to need the infrastructure of a state college system more than ever as we work to rebuild from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We recognize that Vermont has dramatically underfunded higher education, with very real and difficult impacts on our state college system. We are asking you to slow this decision down, so that the legislature can better understand the needs of the state colleges, the economic impacts of downsizing versus providing support, and VSC’s eligibility for any existing and forthcoming federal money, including the $1.25 billion in stimulus money that Vermont will receive this week.

As Progressives, we will continue to express our support for well-funded public education, tuition-free college, and student loan forgiveness. Please allow Vermonters and their elected representatives to participate in the critical discussion about the future of the Vermont State College system.


Rep. Mollie Burke

Rep. Robin Chesnut-Tangerman

Rep. Brian Cina

Rep. Selene Colburn

Rep. Diana González

Rep. Sandy Haas

Sen. Anthony Pollina

Rep. Zachariah Ralph

Johnson State College campus view

A call for F-35 test flight suspension

Clear sky with clouds

TO:        Governor Phil Scott & Adjutant General Col. Greg Knight

FROM:        Representative Brian Cina & Representative Selene Colburn

DATE:        April 15, 2020

RE:         F-35 practice flights at the Burlington International Airport

We write in solidarity with the Burlington City Council and our thousands of impacted constituents to ask you to call for the suspension of the Vermont Air National Guard’s F-35 training flights for the duration of  the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” addendum to executive order 01-20, and any subsequent extensions to this order.

We appreciate the many ways the executive branch and the Vermont Guard have mobilized to support the health, safety, and well being of Vermonters during the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis.

The area we represent, Burlington’s Chittenden 6-4 legislative district, is in the heart of the F-35’s flight path and we have constituents who live both inside the borders of the high impact areas reflected in current noise maps, or just outside their margins.

Our constituents are working hard to comply with the “Stay Safe, Stay Home” order by social distancing, sheltering in place, and working from home. We have heard many instances of F-35 planes disrupting sleep, causing ear aches and headaches, interrupting the ability to work at home, and reactivating past traumas and exacerbating mental health issues at a time when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others have recognized the significant mental health impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. One constituent shared that she runs to the basement when the planes fly overhead, because of how painful the disruption is. She wrote of her home country, “When I was growing up, the basement was where we went for a potential bombing during a war.”

The impacts of the F-35s aren’t just limited to our district, though they are amplified here. We’ve heard from residents all across Burlington and Chittenden County that they are struggling with these regular disruptions.

Please join us in exerting your voice and influence to advocate for Vermonters during this very difficult time. Again, please work to suspend the F-35 test flights for the duration of the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order.Clear sky with bird

Legislative updates (4/10/2020)

What You Should Know About Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)Legislative Update

April 10, 2020

Representative Brian Cina and Representative Selene Colburn

As you most likely know, Governor Scott has extended the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order until May 15. In the Vermont House, we’re continuing to work remotely in our committees, and to prepare for remote voting on legislation to help Vermonters during the COVID-19 crisis. Committee meetings

are both live streamed and archived for the public. See http://legislature.vermont.gov for agendas and information on how to view meetings.

Unemployment Resources

We continue to see a high volume of need for unemployment insurance benefits and to hear that it can be difficult for people to connect with the Vermont Department of Labor. We also know that the state is awaiting both clarity and resources from the federal government for some of the expanded unemployment benefits that are coming, including those for self-employed workers. We are continuing to monitor the situation and advocate these needs.

The Vermont Department of Labor has put together a collection of frequently-asked questions to help employees and employers: https://labor.vermont.gov/covid19/covid-19-frequently-asked-questions

You can also find recordings of webinars with detailed information for:

*Employees/claimants (https://youtu.be/hTbETm6brGk)

*Self-employed individuals (https://youtu.be/dpg78arrhjE)

*Employers (https://youtu.be/ndiyZUfN9Uw)

In response to the increasing number of initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits and inquiries to its claims center, the Vermont Department of Labor will implement an alphabetized structure for intake of weekly claims and questions, beginning Sunday, April 12. It is hoped that this new process will reduce the traffic to the claimant portal by designating specific days of the week for individuals to contact the Department, based on the first letter of their last name. See https://labor.vermont.gov/alphabetized-structure-information to learn

more about this new process, and which days to connect through different channels, based on your name.

Please feel free to reach out to us about your experience with unemployment insurance. We want to understand how this system is (or isn’t) working for people and we will do our best to help you navigate it and to advocate for you.

Selene Colburn (scolburn@leg.state.vt.u

s; 802-233-1358)

Brian Cina (bcina@leg.state.vt.us; 802-448-2178)

Open Enrollment for Health Insurance

Do you know someone who lost or lowered their income during this crisis? Many Vermonters will qualify for more help paying for health insurance. And if you or a family member lost income, you may qualify for free comprehensive coverage with Vermont Medicaid. Report income changes and see what you qualify for by calling Vermont Health Connect at 1-855-899-9600.

Questions? Call the Vermont Legal Aid Health Care Advocate at 1-800-917-7787 or visit online: https://vtlawhelp.org/health for free help.

Self Care, Mental Health and Wellness Resources

The pandemic is having a massive impact on our mental health. You don’t have to face it alone. Talk with a caring person who understands what you’re going through by calling or texting the confidential Pathways Vermont Support Line at 1 (833) VT-TALKS (888-2557). If you are feeling suicidal you can call the National Suicide Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255.

Virtual Town Meeting with State Representatives (Cina, Colburn, Gonzalez) on Friday April 17, from 5-6 PM

The meeting will be broadcast on Channel 17, so if you participate you will be recorded.

Topic: Virtual Meeting with State Representatives (Cina, Colburn, Gonzalez)

Time: Apr 17, 2020 05:00 PM Montreal

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 137 424 029

Password: 043696

One tap mobile


# US (New York)

+13126266799,,137424029# US (Chicago)

Dial by your location

+1 646 876 9923 US (New


+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)

+1 301 715 8592 US

+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)

+1 408 638 0968 US (San Jose)

+1 669 900 6833 US (San


+1 253 215 8782 US

Meeting ID: 137 424 029

Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/aeHGVgZKnP

Hands making heart shape at the beach