25 states have introduced bills by lawmakers that would require any presidential candidates to release their tax returns to be eligible to appear on the 2020 ballot in said states — clearly, this is directed at President Trump because he’s refused to release his personal tax returns.
Here’s why this matters: In theory, President Trump potentially could be blocked from being put on the ballot in any state where the new law is implemented. For now, not a single state has enacted it mainly because the governors of California and New Jersey have vetoed it after it had passed both state chambers. It’s turned out to be more of a sad attempt by state Democrats to stop Trump rather than an actual re-election threat.
Where it stands at this stage: Rhode Island is the latest state to have passed this measure through its state Senate, according to an article by Providence Journal, and Maryland’s state Senate did pass a bill back in May. Both will now move to their states’ House of Delegates for further consideration.
It might not be constitutional: For a state to require any presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to get ballot access could run into some constitutional issues. The U.S. Supreme Court has previously ruled that not any states or the federal government can create additional qualifications for congressional representatives or senators, and many legal experts in the field anticipate that it would, in fact, extend to presidential candidates.
Conflicts of interest: Rhode Island Democratic state legislators have argued that “tax returns provide essential information about candidates’ conflicts of interest.” Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who vetoed his state’s bill, called it a “transparent political stunt.”
- California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown questioned its constitutionality and said the measure “sets a ‘slippery slope’ precedent” for what individuals states could require of candidates.”
- Michael McConnell, a professor at Stanford Law School, told AP there’s a “tax law problem, because federal law guarantees the confidentiality of tax returns,” and he anticipates “that law would pre-empt any state law requiring someone to divulge their returns.”
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