Newsom signs bill requiring candidate tax disclosure for 2020 presidential primary

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation today squarely aimed at President Donald Trump.

The bill, Senate Bill 27, the so-called tas transparency requiring candidates for U.S. President and California Governor to disclose their income tax returns in order to appear on California’s primary ballot. The bill was authored by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) and Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). 

The bill requires a candidate for U.S. President or California Governor to file copies of every income tax return filed with the Internal Revenue Service in the five most recent taxable years with the Secretary of State, at least 98 days prior to the corresponding primary election. 

In a statement issued this morning regarding the bill, Newsom said:

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.

Since entering the presidential race four years ago this summer and upon his election as president, Trump has refused to release his statements. Although not required by law, Trump broke modern tradition dating to Richard Nixon by refusing to disclose his returns which could show his various business activities before and after his election as president.

Addressing questions regarding the constitutionality of the law, Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean, University of California, Berkeley School of Law said the law meets standards.

It does not keep any candidate from being on the ballot so long as he or she complies with a simple requirement that is meant to provide California voters crucial information," Chemerinsky said. "This is the state acting to make sure that its voters have information that might be very important to them when they cast their ballots as to who they want to be President of the United States."

Citing a recent decision by the Ninth Appellate Court in San Francisco, Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr., Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, said he is of the opinon the law can withstand a legal challenge.

"SB 27, which would require a presidential candidate to publicly release redacted versions of her tax returns before her name can be placed on a California ballot for President of the United States, is constitutional," Boutrous said. "As the Ninth Circuit recently explained, such laws are constitutional if they are 'generally applicable, even-handed, [and] politically neutral,' and the State has an important justification for enacting the law." [De La Fuente v. Padilla, No. 17-56668, 2019 WL 3242193, at *3 (9th Cir. July 19, 2019].  

Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2019. All right reserved.

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