Photos by Hal Yeager and Jill Norris
On April 20, 2022, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey graciously hosted the ceremonial signing into law of House Bill 50, introduced by State Representative Rolanda Hollis. Alabama is only the seventh state to have a mandate to provide menstrual hygiene products to students at no cost. The other states with laws to end period poverty are California, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, Utah and Virginia.
Supporters at the ceremonial bill signing included The Honorable Brooke Reid, who serves on the Board of Directors of Women in Training, Inc.; Senator Minority Leader Sen. Bobby Singleton; Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison; State Rep. Laura Hall; State Rep. Rod Scott; Rep. Danny Garrett; Rep. Hollis' husband, Aaron Jefferson; Alabama Appleseed Policy Director and WIT Board Member Akiesha Anderson; Breanna and Brooke's loving supporter Melba Richardson, who is the retired Head of School at Saint James School; Sandra Whatley-Washington of Jack and Jill Associates of Montgomery; Jill Norris and Karli Pinnette of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' JustServe organization and Jill's daughters; Dr. Lynette Freeman of Reign sanitary products; Kathy Jones, President, League of Women Voters of Alabama; and WIT Board Members Adeyela Bennett, Bradley Bennett, Khadidah Stone and Tonya White-Evans; WIT Young Leaders included Savannah Williams, Makayla McDonald and Jonilah Megie; and Breanna and Brooke's classmate and friend, Margaret Hornsby.
Rep. Hollis first introduced a period poverty bill in 2020 after meeting with Women in Training, Inc. founders, Breanna and Brooke Bennett, who were 12 years old at the time. In 2020, the Alabama State Legislature never voted on the bill because the COVID-19 pandemic caused the session to close early. In 2021, Brooke Bennett, co-founder of Women in Training, Inc., testified in front of the House Ways and Means Education Committee to support HB 88. Brooke was concerned about whether she could touch the hearts of the mostly male legislators on the committee. Yet, the bill passed unanimously. HB 88 also passed unanimously in the full state House of Representatives. However, with only three days remaining in the session, the bill never reached the state Senate for a vote.
So, here we are in 2022, and Rep. Hollis introduced the current version of the bill, HB 50. Several WIT Young Leaders from LAMP Academic Magnet High School – Hannah Huston, Makayla McDonald, Jonilah Megie, Esther Shon, and Cailin White – and Gabrielle Johns from Brewbaker Technology Magnet High School, joined Rep. Hollis, and Breanna and Brooke this year at the House Ways and Means Education Committee hearing.
Several WIT board members, including Bradley Bennett, Stephanie McCorvey and Khadidah Stone, also joined them. Lindsay Gray from Bundles of Hope Diaper Bank in Birmingham, and Sandra Washington and Chandra Spicer of Jack and Jill Associates of Montgomery, also joined the girls at the meeting. This important menstrual legislation passed unanimously again in both the committee and the House.
Prior to the committee meeting, Rep. Hollis and new WIT board member Akiesha Anderson were able to have private conversations with Rep. Danny Garrett, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Committee, as well as Dr. Eric Mackey, Superintendent of the Alabama State Department of Education. Both leaders agreed to the concept of creating a grant program designed to distribute $200,000 worth of funds to help Title I schools implement the mandate to provide period products to students. They secured the $200,000 in funding from the Education Trust Fund to support the bill.
“As someone who experienced period poverty growing up, I am beyond honored to have been able to assist with this crucial piece of legislation,” said Mrs. Anderson. Ultimately, this important menstrual legislation passed unanimously again in both the committee and the House.
On March 1, more than 50 women and men representatives from both the Democratic and Republican parties signed on as bill co-sponsors; the bill passed unanimously in the Alabama House of Representatives.
Sen. Arthur Orr, Chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee, scheduled a hearing on HB 50 when legislators returned from Spring Break. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Bobby Singleton, spoke on behalf of the bill in committee. The committee members voted unanimously to pass the bill onto the full Senate floor. Karli Pinnette from Birmingham, and her two school-age sons, traveled to Montgomery to support the bill. Kathy Jones, President of the League of Women Voters of Alabama, also attended the hearing to support HB 50.
Sen. J.T. (Jabo) Waggoner, Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, scheduled House Bill 50 on the Senate’s special order calendar for April 5, 2022.
The bill passed unanimously in the Senate, thanks to Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison's leadership.
Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into state law on April 14, 2022.
Here are photos from the ceremonial signing event.