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State Supreme Court blocks Trump tax-disclosure law

Demonstrators urging Preident Trump to make his tax retyurns public, 2017. <(Photo: Christopher Penler, via Shutterstock)

The state Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a new law that would have required presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns in order to be listed on California’s primary election ballot.

The Legislature cannot bar a legally certified contender from the primary election, “even if that candidate fails to disclose five years worth of federal tax returns,” the court said.

Versions of the bill made it through both houses of the Legislature twice.

California Democrats have long sought President Trump’s tax returns, and the new law would have required Trump to make public his returns. Several other jurisdictions, including a House committee and state authorities in New York, also want access to Trump’s returns. Those cases remain pending.

The state Supreme Court said California’s law, which was signed earlier this year by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, violates California’s constitution.

Versions of the bill made it through both houses of the Legislature twice.

The first measure was vetoed by former Gov. Jerry Brown, who said the legislation set a “slippery slope’ precedent.”  Brown also has declined over the years to release his tax returns.

“While I recognize the political attractiveness – even the merits – of getting President Trump’s tax returns, I worry about the political perils of individual states seeking to regulate presidential elections in this manner,” Brown wrote in his veto message. “First, it may not be constitutional. Second, it sets a ‘slippery slope’ precedent. Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? 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 number of lawsuits were immediately filed by Republican organizations both inside and outside the state challenging the California statute.

Newsom, a vocal critic of Trump, signed the legislation while expressing strong support. The two regularly find themselves in spats on Twitter, and Trump is the first presidential candidate to not disclose his tax returns in more than four decades.

A number of lawsuits were immediately filed by Republican organizations both inside and outside the state challenging the California statute.

The actions of earlier presidents to release their returns was noted by the court in its decision..

“It’s quite easy to find the tax returns disclosed by our nation’s Presidents, with only a few exceptions, dating back to 1932 on various news and stand-alone websites, as well as the tax returns disclosed by many of the unsuccessful candidates over the past 40 years, the court said.

The court said the voters have the responsibility to decide whether a candidate’s financial transparency, or lack of it, is reason enough to withhold the office of the presidency.


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