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Colorado lawmakers want to end state sales tax on menstrual products, diapers

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Colorado lawmakers want to end state sales tax on menstrual products, diapers

Colorado Democratic lawmakers want the state to join the ranks of 12 other states that don’t impose a sales tax on menstrual products and 15 that don’t on diapers.

Lawmakers had brought the state sales tax exemption proposals in 2017 as two separate bills, but they both were unsuccessful. In 2022, some of those same backers plan to combine them. Sen. Faith Winter, a Westminster Democrat, sponsored the 2017 diaper legislation and Rep. Susan Lontine the menstrual product legislation (often referred to as the pink tax or tampon tax), and they plan to lead the charge with Democratic Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver and Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis of Boulder County.

Five of the states that exempt taxes on these products don’t have sales taxes at all — Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon. As of April of this year, the states that exempt menstrual products specifically from state sales taxes include Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. As of July, the states that exempted diapers specifically from state sales taxation include California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Winter said both menstrual products and diapers are essential items that lawmakers should do everything they can to make available and affordable. Their bill would include various types of feminine hygiene products as well as diapers for babies and adults, and would only apply to the state’s 2.9% sales tax. It would not exempt the products from municipal taxes, but cities like Aurora and Denver have exempted feminine hygiene products from their local taxes.

People have shared stories with lawmakers about children going to daycare centers with grocery bags and toilet paper as makeshift diapers and infants left in diapers longer than is healthy because families couldn’t afford them. Similarly, groups across the country have been working to raise awareness about “period poverty,” which leads people to create makeshift items to replace pads or tampons or leave the products in too long, making themselves sick.

“This is actually one of the bills that’s been most requested by my constituents,” Winter said. “Especially young women across my district are seeing this as an equity piece and as a really important way to reduce stigma.”

Lontine said the menstrual products bill received opposition previously partly because of monetary concerns. While they don’t have new estimates for how much tax revenue these products bring in for the state, in 2017, it was about a $3.4 million loss for diapers and about $2.4 million for menstrual products.

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White House soft-launches COVID-19 test request website. Here’s how to get your free tests.

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White House soft-launches COVID-19 test request website. Here’s how to get your free tests.

By ZEKE MILLER and MATT O’BRIEN

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Tuesday quietly launched its website for Americans to request free at-home COVID-19 tests, a day before the site was scheduled to officially go online.

The website, COVIDTests.gov, now includes a link for “every home in the U.S.” to access an order form run by the U.S. Postal Service. People can order four at-home tests per residential address, to be delivered by the Postal Service. It marks the latest step by President Joe Biden to address criticism of low inventory and long lines for testing during a nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the website was in “beta testing” and operating at a “limited capacity” ahead of its official launch. The website will officially launch midmorning Wednesday, Psaki said.

There were isolated reports Tuesday afternoon of problems relating to the website’s address verification tool erroneously enforcing the four-per-household cap on apartment buildings and other multi-unit dwellings. A spokesperson for the Postal Service said in a statement that the error was “occurring in a small percentage of orders.” He said any user needing assistance could file a service request at emailus.usps.com/s/the-postal-store-inquiry or contact a help desk at 1-800-ASK-USPS.

At points Tuesday more than 750,000 people were accessing the website at the same time, according to public government tracking data, but it was not immediately known how many orders were placed.

Psaki added that the administration was anticipating a “bug or two,” but had IT experts from across the government working to get the site ready.

Biden announced last month that the U.S. would purchase 500 million at-home tests to launch the program and on Thursday the president announced that he was doubling the order to 1 billion tests.

But Americans shouldn’t expect a rapid turnaround on the orders and they will have to plan ahead and request the tests well before they meet federal guidelines for when to use a test.

The White House said “tests will typically ship within 7- 12 days of ordering” through USPS, which reports shipping times of 1-3 days for its first-class package service in the continental United States.

Officials emphasized that the federal website is just one way for people to procure COVID-19 tests, and shortages of at-home test kits have shown signs of easing as more supply has hit the market.

Since Saturday, private insurance companies have been required to cover the cost of at-home rapid tests, allowing Americans to be reimbursed for tests they purchase at pharmacies and online retailers. That covers up to eight tests per month.

The technical bugs that embarrassed President Barack Obama’s administration with the 2013 rollout of the HealthCare.gov website should not be a problem for the COVID-19 test kit website in part because it is so much simpler, said Alex Howard, director of the Digital Democracy Project, an open government watchdog group. Howard said the new website is also simpler than the Vaccines.gov website – for finding nearby vaccine clinics and pharmacies – that was already successfully launched by the Biden administration last year.

Howard said the task of requesting someone’s address is a straightforward one, especially when compared with the Obama-era health insurance website that involved shopping for different health plans and authenticating a secure transaction. The challenge of hosting a website application under high demand is also a “solved problem” in the private sector, he said.

“My expectation is the U.S. Digital Service and any vendors they work with will be able to pull this off,” he said. “It’s the least hard part of this.”

Two tech companies that frequently work with the federal government – Microsoft and Accenture – on Tuesday referred questions about the website to the Postal Service. Amazon, a major cloud provider for U.S. agencies, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Howard said the trickiest part of the project is not the website but the physical distribution of kits.

“I don’t recall the last time the federal government sent something like this to everyone that wasn’t a tax document,” he said.

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Explainer: Why airlines fear 5G will upend travel this week

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Explainer: Why airlines fear 5G will upend travel this week

The Associated Press

AT&T and Verizon will postpone new wireless service near some airports planned for this week after the nation’s largest airlines said the service would interfere with aircraft technology and cause massive flight disruptions.

AT&T said Tuesday it would delay turning on new cell towers around runways at some airports — it did not say how many — and work with federal regulators to settle the dispute.

Verizon said it will launch its new 5G network but added, “we have voluntarily decided to limit our 5G network around airports.”

The moves came after the airline industry raised the stakes in a showdown with AT&T and Verizon over plans to launch 5G wireless service this week, warning that thousands of flights could be grounded or delayed if the rollout takes place near major airports.

Here is a rundown of the issue from The Associated Press.

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WHOSE SIDE IS THE GOVERNMENT ON?

Both.

The Federal Communications Commission, which runs the auctions of radio spectrum, determined that C-Band could be used safely in the vicinity of air traffic. The FCC in 2020 set a buffer between the 5G band and the spectrum that planes use to resolve any safety concerns.

But Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson, whose agency is responsible for aviation safety, saw a potential problem. On Friday, they asked AT&T and Verizon to hold off activating C-Band 5G near an undetermined number of “priority airports” while the FAA conducted further study.

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HOW DID AT&T AND VERIZON RESPOND?

They dismissed the concerns. The wireless industry trade group CTIA notes that about 40 countries have deployed the C-Band strand of 5G without reports of harmful interference with aviation equipment.

But AT&T CEO John Stankey and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg did offer to reduce the power of their 5G networks near airports, as France has done.

“The laws of physics are the same in the United States and France,” Stankey and Vestberg said in a letter Sunday to Buttigieg and Dickson. “If U.S. airlines are permitted to operate flights every day in France, then the same operating conditions should allow them to do so in the United States.”

Although they took steps to soothe the federal officials, the telecoms are still bickering with airlines, which have canceled more than 10,000 U.S. flights since Christmas Eve because of bad weather and labor shortages caused by COVID-19.

“While the airline industry faces many challenges, 5G is not one of them,” Vestberg said in a company memo Tuesday.

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HOW MANY PLANES DOES THIS AFFECT?

Under the agreement, the FAA will conduct a survey to find out. The FAA will allow planes with accurate, reliable altimeters to operate around high-power 5G. But planes with older altimeters will not be allowed to make landings under low-visibility conditions.

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WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN THE NEXT TWO WEEKS?

The two-week postponement will give the FAA and the companies time to implement the agreement.

AT&T and Verizon will be allowed to launch C-Band service this month under already-granted FCC licenses. The airlines have until Friday to give the companies a list of up to 50 airports where they believe the power of C-Band service should be reduced through July 5.

Until July, the telecoms will talk to the FAA and airlines about potential long-term measures regarding 5G service near airports. However, under terms of the agreement with the FAA, AT&T and Verizon will have sole power to decide if any changes in service will be made.

“We felt that it was the right thing to do for the flying public, which includes our customers and all of us, to give the FAA a little time to work out its issues with the aviation community and therefore avoid further inconveniencing passengers with additional flight delays,” Vestberg said in his memo.

Nicholas Calio, president of the airline trade group, was more muted in his comments about the agreement, although he thanked federal officials for reaching the deal with AT&T and Verizon.

“Safety is and always will be the top priority of U.S. airlines. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to help ensure that new 5G service can coexist with aviation safely,” Calio said.

The FAA issued a brief statement about the two-week delay, saying it looks forward “to using the additional time and space to reduce flight disruptions associated with this 5G deployment.”

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Kirkwood bakery employee robbed at gunpoint before work; 3 suspects sought

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Kirkwood bakery employee robbed at gunpoint before work; 3 suspects sought

KIRKWOOD, Mo. — Kirkwood police are searching for three armed and dangerous suspects after an armed robbery early Tuesday morning. 

The victim, a Nathaniel Reid Bakery employee, parked his car at a North Kirkwood Middle School parking lot before two suspects approached him with guns before 4 a.m., according to police.

“Two individuals got out of the vehicle with long weapons long guns rifles demanded his property to include his self-phone wallet car keys,” said Kirkwood Police spokesperson Officer Gary Baldridge.

Baldridge said the victim said the driver of the car also brandished a handgun.  

“Our victim did exactly as he was told and as soon as he felt it was safe, he then ran to his business called the police. And at that time our suspects were gone,” Baldridge said. 

He said the stolen vehicle is an ivory/cream-colored 2015 Ford Fusion. The suspects have been described as three men between five feet ten and six feet tall.  

“If you happen to see it please do not approach them we are considering the occupants armed and assumingly dangerous,” Officer Baldridge said. 

North Kirkwood Middle School Principal Dana Liberton sent an email to parents Tuesday morning saying in part:  

“The District is cooperating with the Kirkwood Police Department to assist in any way we can. Additionally, the Kirkwood Police Department will be increasing patrols in the area. Please know we are committed to ensuring a safe and secure learning environment.” 

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