The California Legislature has passed a bill by North Coast Sen. Mike McGuire requiring presidential candidates to publicly release five years of tax returns before being placed on Golden State ballots, sending it on to Gov. Jerry Brown and, potentially, putting him in an awkward spot.
The bill, which McGuire authored
in the wake of President Donald Trump’s stunning victory last November, one Trump achieved while bucking decades of tradition and refusing to release his tax returns. If signed by Brown, McGuire’s bill would force Trump to decide between running in California and publicly disclosing his tax returns in 2020.
On the Senate floor earlier this week, McGuire argued that Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns means his business interests are unclear, leaving it hard for the American public to decipher whether his decisions are aimed at lifting up all Americans or simply enriching himself. “This legislation will help make transparency great again,” McGuire said of the bill, which has since passed the Senate, the Assembly and the Senate again on largely party-line votes.
While the bill has been hailed nationally by Democrats as California — a Democratic stronghold since Bill Clinton took the state in 1992 (George H.W. Bush took it four years earlier, the fifth consecutive Republican to do so) — reestablishing its relevance in presidential politics, it’s been widely bemoaned by Republicans as a hypocritical lashing out at Trump’s unexpected victory.
State Sen. Joel Anderson (R, Alpine) caused a stir in May when he twice tried to amend the bill on the Senate floor, seeking to require that candidates for the state Legislature also be required to release their tax returns and, then, that presidential candidates also be required to release their birth certificates. Both amendments were voted down by Democrats and the bill ultimately passed as authored.
Republicans and others have also raised questions about whether the bill would be held to be constitutional in the face of a legal challenge, which it will almost certainly see if signed into law.
Now on the governor’s desk, the legislation represents somewhat of a conundrum for Brown, who declined requests to release his tax returns while running for governor in both 2010 and 2014. (Whatever Brown decides, though, he’s unlikely to face political ramifications as term limits prevent him from taking another gubernatorial run in 2018.)
Even if it’s signed and survives a legal challenge, it’s also unclear exactly how impactful the bill will be in 2020. If Trump seeks re-election, it’s unclear if he will have a primary opponent and, even if so, how closely contested that race will be. If Trump runs unopposed or feels he has the race in the bag, he could simply sit out California, which has gone Democrat in the general election for nearly 30 years.
See the full press release from McGuire’s office below and read the bill here
California sends Presidential Tax Transparency Bill to Governor Brown
Sacramento, CA – Senators Mike McGuire and Scott Wiener’s Presidential Tax Transparency Bill that would require all presidential primary candidates to release five years of tax returns prior to being placed on the California ballot cleared its final legislative hurdle and is heading to the Governor’s desk.
“Making your tax returns public is a pretty low-threshold to meet. For decades, every President has put their personal beliefs aside and put our country first and released their returns, allowing voters to go to the polls with the information they need to make an informed choice,” Senator Mike McGuire said. “The American people shouldn’t be in the dark about their president’s financial entanglements. SB 149 helps to reestablish desperately needed transparency in the White House.”
SB 149 passed the State Senate Friday night with an overwhelming vote of 27 to 11. Governor Brown has until October 15 to sign the bill.