California Presidential Tax Return Bill Advances

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By Laura Mahoney

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) has backed a bill progressing through the Legislature that would require all presidential candidates to release their tax returns before they can appear on the state ballot.

Padilla announced his support for Sen. Mike McGuire’s (D) S.B. 149 before it passed the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee July 12 on a party-line vote of 4-2, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

California joined more than 20 states that have introduced legislation this year to compel the disclosure of tax documents from presidential candidates. The movement was in response to President Donald Trump’s refusal to release his returns. A New Jersey bill passed both chambers, but Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed the measure in May.

“Voters and the press should not be left in the dark about a candidate’s potential conflicts of interest,” Padilla said in a July 6 letter to committee chair Assemblyman Marc Berman (D).

No Write-Ins

S.B. 149 passed the Senate May 31. It heads next to the Assembly Appropriations Committee and must win a final vote on the Assembly floor by Sept. 15 to reach the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown (D). With Democrats in control of both the Assembly and Senate, the bill is likely to reach him. Brown hasn’t taken a position on it.

Under the bill, presidential candidates would have to file their income tax returns for the most recent five years with the California Secretary of State, who would redact them for privacy purposes before releasing to the public. Write-in votes for candidates who don’t appear on the ballot because they haven’t released their returns wouldn’t be counted.

According to a legislative staff analysis, the bill is likely to be challenged in court on constitutional grounds if it becomes law.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Mahoney in Sacramento, Calif. at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jennifer McLoughlin at

For More Information

Information about the bill is at

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