- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Tampons and sanitary napkins would be available for free in state buildings and publicly funded schools under a bill a Madison legislator has introduced.

Democratic Rep. Melissa Sargent’s proposal would require that the state stock all women’s restrooms in buildings it owns, occupies or leases with free tampons and sanitary napkins. Any school that receives public funding also would have to place free tampons and sanitary napkins in their women’s bathrooms as well. The requirement would extend to University of Wisconsin System campuses as well as private schools in the state’s voucher program, which subsidizes private school students’ tuition.

“Half of the world’s population is familiar with this terrifying moment, looking through your bag and realizing that you do not have a tampon or pad,” Sargent wrote in a memo to her fellow legislators seeking co-sponsors. “Middle and high school students are often shocked and embarrassed by their first period and should have access to these products immediately without the long, terrifying walk to the nurse’s office.”

Sargent said in a telephone interview Monday that she doesn’t know how much the bill would cost and she’s still waiting for an estimate. But she said she’s not worried about the expense, whatever it might be. The government can afford to supply such a vital hygiene product, she argued.

“If we’re in such dire straits in the state of Wisconsin, maybe we should start charging for soap and toilet papers in bathrooms,” she said.

Sargent introduced the measure Friday and is still looking for co-sponsors. She faces an uphill fight in the Legislature, though; Republicans control both the Assembly and the Senate. Spokeswomen for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald didn’t immediately return an email message seeking comment on the bill’s prospects.

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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