California has taken a step toward passing legislation that would compel presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns in order to be featured on a state ballot. The bill was prompted by President Donald Trump's decision to not disclose his finances during the 2016 presidential race and since assuming the Oval Office.
On Sept. 14, California passed the legislation by a vote of 42 to 18. Senate Bill 149 (SB 149), also known as the Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act, would require presidential candidates to disclose up to five years of their income tax returns in order to compete in the Golden State. The returns would then be posted online, on the California Secretary of State's website, The Hill reports.
SB 149 was introduced in December 2016. The bill's co-author, Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener, asserted that financial transparency from presidential candidates was necessary after the 2016 election.
"Requiring that this basic financial information be made available to voters will help build critical public trust," Wiener said at the time, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"Transparency is a non-partisan issue," said Democratic state Sen. Mike McGuire, another co-author of the bill. "Voters not only deserve full disclosure of their future leader's tax returns, they should be entitled to them."
The bill was also a pointed measure against Trump, who has yet to disclose his tax returns.
It had been a tradition for presidential nominees to release their income taxes before a general election for decades. Trump was the first major nominee who declined to share his financial information since former President Gerald Ford in 1976, according to PolitiFact.
Following the Assembly vote, McGuire asserted that Trump's decision to buck the precedent of disclosing tax returns meant that the tradition had to be codified into state law.
"President Trump's blatant disregard for the tradition of releasing tax returns is dangerous to our democracy," McGuire said in a statement. "For decades, every President has put their personal beliefs aside and put our country first and released their returns. ... SB 149 helps to reestablish desperately needed transparency in the White House, and we are looking forward to seeing the Governor's signature on the bill."
Meanwhile, GOP state Rep. Matthew Marper blasted the measure, asserting that it would only be fair if both McGuire and Wiener were forced to release their tax returns.
"The hypocrisy at this level is absolutely amazing and incredible," Harper said, according to The Mercury News. "This is shameful, hypocritical and completely out of order."
If SB 149 is passed in the California Senate, it would only require Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's signature to become law. California would be the first state to require presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to feature on the ballot.