A new state law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday will require presidential candidates to provide five years of tax returns in order to appear on the ballot for California’s primary elections. While the legislation, Senate Bill 27, doesn’t name Trump specifically, the scrutiny-averse President is certainly its muse.
Under the law, California gubernatorial candidates will also have to turn over their IRS records—which former Governor Jerry Brown refused to do in 2010 and 2014—but that provision doesn’t go into effect until 2024; the presidential requirement goes into effect immediately. The legislature passed the bill last month along strict party lines, and Tuesday was Newsom’s last day to sign it.
“As one of the largest economies in the world and home to one in nine Americans eligible to vote, California has a special responsibility to require this information of presidential and gubernatorial candidates,” Newsom said. “These are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence. The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest.”
Tim Murtaugh, communications director for Trump’s reelection campaign doesn’t see it that way. “The Constitution is clear on the qualifications for someone to serve as president and states cannot add additional requirements on their own,” he said. “The bill also violates the 1st Amendment right of association, since California can’t tell political parties which candidates their members can or cannot vote for in a primary election.”
Brown vetoed a similar bill in 2017, writing in his decision, “Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?”
As of now, candidates have until November to submit their tax records in order to appear on the March 2020 primary ballot, but both sides agree that this is going to be battled out in the courts before then.
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