California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law that prohibits President Trump from appearing on California’s primary ballot next year unless he releases his tax returns.
Under the state’s law, which took effect immediately on July 30, all presidential candidates are required to submit five years of income tax filings by late November to keep their spot on California’s presidential primary ballot in March, reported the Los Angeles Times.
“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,” Newsom said in a statement released Tuesday. “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.”
In 1973, an issue raised over a tax deduction taken by President Nixon started the tradition of having presidential candidates release their returns. Only two presidents in the years after — President Ford in 1976 and Trump in 2016 — have refused to release their returns.
While this may be a way to ensure Trump releases his returns before the next election, the president may actually have several options to circumvent the law.
First, the law does not keep a candidate who does not release their returns from appearing on the November 2020 general election ballot in the state.
Additionally, many political experts assume President Trump will fight the law in court.
“I’m sure it’ll be challenged, but I have no confidence in predicting what the courts are going to do,” Richard L. Hasen, a UC Irvine election law professor, told the Los Angeles Times.
Newsom's Democratic predecessor, Jerry Brown, vetoed similar legislation in 2017, saying that this type of law would create a "slippery slope."
"Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards?" Brown said in his veto statement.
Before California enacted this legislation, lawmakers in 18 other states, most of them being Democratic, have considered creating similar rules, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
However, Trump’s record has shown that he will fight any state that attempts to force him to relinquish the returns. Just last week, Trump sued to stop the House of Representatives from obtaining a copy of his New York state returns.
(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)