Bill requiring Trump to release taxes to make CA ballot reaches Newsom’s desk

When Gov. Gavin Newsom got back from his vacation last week, awaiting him was a bill that some see as a principled attempt to force President Donald Trump to be transparent about his personal finances and that others – including California’s last governor – see as partisan meddling that could haunt elections across the nation going forward.

Senate Bill 27 was enrolled and sent to the governor’s office on July 15 after passing the Assembly 29-10 and the Senate 57-17 along party lines. Newsom has until July 30 to act on it. Introduced by Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, and Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, it would require presidential and gubernatorial candidates to release their most recent five years of tax returns as a prerequisite for appearing on the California ballot.

McGuire and Wiener reject the characterization that it is an attempt to punish Trump, who has famously feuded with California officials via the media and in court since he began his presidential campaign in 2015. Instead, they say it is an attempt to preserve democratic norms by ensuring that voters know about candidates’ financial entanglements before they become U.S. president or governor of the nation’s richest, most populous state.

It’s unclear, however, whether the measure is constitutional. Some attorneys say the Constitution has long enshrined states’ rights, including partial sovereignty, on many fronts. But the U.S. Supreme Court has held that a state cannot add additional qualifications for candidates for federal office. California’s legislative counsel cited this history in a 2017 opinion raising doubts about whether Trump could be compelled to release his taxes as a precondition of getting on the Golden State’s ballot.

Brown vetoed similar bill, cited bad precedent

In vetoing similar legislation in 2017, Brown not only questioned its constitutionality, he worried about the precedent it would set in his veto message.

“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?” he wrote. California’s enactment would start the U.S. “down a road that well might lead to an ever escalating set of differing state requirements for presidential candidates.”

There is a recent precedent for a state seeking to limit a sitting president’s access to the ballot. In 2011, the Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature responded to unsupported, much-ridiculed claims that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya or Indonesia by passing a measure requiring that presidential candidates provide birth certificates before they could be placed on subsequent presidential ballots. The validity of the birth certificates would have been determined by the Arizona secretary of state.

But GOP Gov. Jan Brewer, a former Arizona secretary of state, vetoed the bill. “I do not support designating one person as the gatekeeper to the ballot for a candidate, which could lead to arbitrary or politically motivated decisions,” she said.

Axios reported last month that lawmakers in 25 states have introduced bills linking ballot eligibility to presidential candidates releasing their tax returns. The Nexis news database shows California to be the only state that has sent such a measure to the governor. The most progress elsewhere appears to be in Rhode Island and Maryland, where the state Senates have given their approval to such legislation.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com