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LOS ANGELES – Several California Democratic lawmakers are proposing legislation that would require President Donald Trump and other presidential candidates to release their tax returns as a precondition for getting on the statewide ballot.
A hearing is scheduled April 2 in the state Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss and vote on the measure. State Senate Bill 27, dubbed the Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act, represents the second time in three years that California has sought to pass such a law.
"President Trump's refusal to release his income tax returns has broken a time-honored, bipartisan tradition which has weakened our democracy and his jaw dropping business conflicts have now put the security of our nation at risk" said state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Eureka, a cosponsor of the bill.
A similar measure, Senate Bill 149, passed the state legislature in 2017 but was vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat who raised concerns it might be unconstitutional. Also, Brown at the time warned the legislation "sets a 'slippery slope' precedent."
Gov. Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat, hasn't indicated whether he will support the new bill if it passes the state Legislature. The Democrats currently have a two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the California Legislature, so they have the power to potentially overrule a governor's veto.
"As is the case with all proposed legislation, should this bill reach the governor's desk it would be evaluated on its own merits," said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for Newsom.
California's proposed bill would require presidential candidates to release the last five years of their tax returns to appear on the ballot in the nation's most populous state. The Golden State's presidential primary was moved up to March 3, 2020, or Super Tuesday, following a state law passed in 2017.
SB 27 contains an urgency clause that allows the legislation to take effect immediately prior to the December 2019 filing deadline for the 2020 presidential candidates. The measure cleared its first hurdle March 19 in a state Senate elections committee, receiving a 3-to-1 vote.
Most major party presidential candidates since the 1970s have released their individual tax records, although Gerald Ford did not agree to do so when running in 1976 and instead the Republican provided a tax summary.
Meantime, legislators in several other states also have proposed legislation along the same lines that would require future presidential candidates to release their tax returns as a condition for being placed on the ballot, according to the National Conference of State Legislature. The list includes Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Arizona.
Trump has previously claimed that the American people "don't care at all" about his tax returns and also suggested he can't release them because they are under audit.
A Quinnipiac University poll last year found about two-thirds of voters want Trump to release his tax returns.