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California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 27 Tuesday, requiring candidates for U.S. President and California Governor to disclose their income tax returns in order to appear on California’s primary ballot.
As California Globe reported, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed an identical bill in 2017, warning about the unconstitutionality of the bill. Brown also warned that “it sets a ‘slippery slope’ precedent. “Today we require tax returns, but what would be next?” Brown asked. “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? A qualified candidate’s ability to appear on the ballot is fundamental to our democratic system.”
While Democrat lawmakers have been trying for several years to pass a law to require all candidates for President to provide their income tax returns to the California Secretary of State as a precondition for appearing on a California primary election ballot, the bill is largely designed to prevent President Donald Trump from appearing on the California primary ballot if he does not make the documents public.
“Make no mistake: SB27 is a cynical and illegal voter suppression scheme whose sole purpose is to deny California voters their Constitutionally protected right to vote for qualified candidates for President, and to suppress the Republican vote in California not just for President but also for all the down-ticket races, ballot measures, and power grabs the Democrats have in store for the 2020 ballot,” said Harmeet K. Dhillon, RNC National Committeewoman and Vice President of the Republican National Lawyers Association.
Governor Newsom’s signing message explains his flawed reasoning:
Today, I am signing SB 27, the Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act. I agree with the Legislature that “the State of California has a strong interest in ensuring that its voters make informed, educated choices in the voting booth.” 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.
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.
The United States Constitution grants states the authority to determine how their electors are chosen, and California is well within its constitutional right to include this requirement.
In October of 2018, the Brennan Center’s National Task Force on Rule of Law and Democracy, a bipartisan group of former public servants and policy experts, recommended that Congress standardize and codify the longstanding practice of tax return disclosure by sitting presidents, vice presidents, and candidates for those offices to assist voters and deter corruption. I agree. This law should be a national standard
Accordingly, I am signing Senate Bill 27.
“Even Congress is not allowed to ask for an individual’s tax returns without a proper legislative purpose, and this attempted ‘workaround’ through blue states, mocks our separation of powers and our system of checks and balances” Harmeet Dhillon said. “Beyond this cynical Trump persecution du jour, this bad law is a Pandora’s box which may lead other jurisdictions to impose similarly frivolous and unconstitutional requirements on Presidential candidates, with no policy or legal justification.”
“It’s sad that Governor Newsom decided to ignore the sage and measured approach taken by his predecessor, Governor Brown, in vetoing similar legislation due to the manifest illegality and policy implications of this effort,” Dhillon added. “And yet again, California voters are used as pawns by a Democratic Party substituting cheap gimmicks such this law, for policy solutions to California’s many ills. This ill-conceived law is doomed to failure.”
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