No tax returns required of presidential candidates in California

After declining to hand over his own tax returns in the last two gubernatorial elections, Jerry Brown vetoed a bill on Sunday that would have required Donald Trump and other candidates to provide up to five years of returns to run for president in California.

Brown’s decision highlights a stark divide between the governor and the state Legislature, which crafted the measure after Trump refused to release his tax returns before the 2016 election. Legislators spent much of the year publicly denouncing the president and pushing legislation to counter his policies, while Brown generally offered a more measured approach. Democratic lawmakers passed SB 149 in September with the help of two Republicans.

“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.

The bill, introduced by Democratic Sens. Mike McGuire of Healdsburg and Scott Wiener of San Francisco, declared that tax returns provide “voters with essential information regarding the candidate’s potential conflicts of interest, business dealings, financial status, and charitable donations.” It would have prohibited the secretary of state from putting a candidate’s name on the ballot in California if he or she did not comply with the tax return requirement.

More than half of the states in the country considered similar legislation this year, according to an Assembly analysis of the bill. The Legislature’s own lawyers said the bill is legally questionable and would likely violate the qualifications clause of the U.S. Constitution. Legislative committees predicted the issue will likely end up in court.

Brown agreed the measure “may not be constitutional,” and said it could lead to states requiring a long list of items of potential candidates. “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?”