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California senators propose TRUMP act to require tax returns from presidential candidates

In this Dec. 13, 2016, photo, President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Wisconsin State Fair Exposition Center in West Allis, Wis. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

J.D. MORRIS,

North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire has teamed up with another state lawmaker on plans to introduce legislation that would require presidential and vice-presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns in order to appear on the California ballot.

McGuire, D-Healdsburg, and state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, announced Monday they are co-authoring the legislation in response to President-elect Donald Trump’s refusal to publicly release his tax returns during the 2016 campaign, bucking decades of precedent followed by previous candidates.

Their effort follows similar legislation proposed recently in New York by a Democratic state senator there. That bill has been called the TRUMP — Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public — Act.

“Transparency is a nonpartisan issue. Voters not only deserve full disclosure of their future leader’s tax returns, they should be entitled to them,” McGuire said in a statement.

Like the proposed New York legislation, McGuire and Wiener’s bill would require presidential and vice-presidential candidates to release five years of tax returns in order to appear on the state ballot. They plan to introduce their bill formally in January.

Trump’s tax returns became a major issue in the 2016 campaign, as his repeated refusal to release them — which he justified by saying he was under audit from the Internal Revenue Service — fueled rampant speculation about their contents.

A portion of his 1995 returns published by the New York Times in October showed him reporting a $916 million loss, which could have allowed him to legally avoid paying federal income taxes for up to 18 years. News reports also suggested Trump’s charitable giving may not have been as great as he had indicated.

With Trump set to take office in January, he has faced persistent criticism about potential conflicts of interest posed by his business dealings — a concern echoed by McGuire and Wiener.

“The world is a dangerous place, and all potential conflicts of interest a future president may have, let alone dangerous ties a candidate may have with a foreign government, must be disclosed,” said McGuire, apparently invoking concern about Trump’s apparent coziness with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, which American intelligence officials believe meddled in the election in a deliberate attempt to help him win.

Wiener, who was elected in November to the state Senate after serving on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, said in the statement that while Trump’s refusal to reveal his tax returns was the impetus for their bill, the legislation had broader, nonpartisan aims, too.

“The American public deserves to know that the individual they are selecting to be president will have their best interests at the heart of every decision, not the best interests of any business venture or investment fund,” Wiener said.

While the California legislators have yet to introduce their bill, the New York Times editorial board said the New York bill, as it was drafted, should hold up to constitutional scrutiny. Laurence Tribe, a Harvard constitutional law expert, told the Times that ballot requirements vary by state, so New York “might be able to simply add tax disclosure as a procedural ballot access requirement.”

You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337 or jd.morris@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @thejdmorris.