State Watch

NJ Senate passes bill that would keep Trump off 2020 ballot unless he releases tax returns

The New Jersey state Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly voted to pass a bill that would keep presidential candidates off the state’s 2020 ballot unless they release their tax returns.

According to the Courier Post, the Democratic-controlled state Senate passed the measure along party lines in a 23-11 vote on Thursday, sending the bill to the Assembly committee and full legislature for a vote before it heads to the desk of Gov. Phil Murphy (D) for consideration.

{mosads}The controversial measure would deny candidates for president and vice president a spot on the state ballot if they do not publicly release five of their most recent tax returns at least 50 days before the general election in 2020.

The bill, if passed, would also bar the state’s electors from voting for candidates for president and vice president as part of the Electoral College system if they choose not to comply with the legislation. 

President Trump has drawn ongoing criticism over his refusal to publicly release his tax returns, the first major-party White House candidate in decades not to do so.

The New Jersey legislature passed the same bill in 2017, but the measure was blocked by a veto from then-Gov. Chris Christie (R), who called it a “transparent political stunt” at the time.

Supporters of the measure have said lawmakers are afforded room under the Constitution to enact such a restriction to ballot access, arguing that voters should have the option of reviewing presidential and vice presidential candidates’ tax returns.

“It is so obvious with this president that had voters known some of what seem to be his business interests, he may not have been elected president,” state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D), a sponsor of the legislation, told the Courier Post.

However, others have argued the bill is unconstitutional and opens the door for more demands for candidates in the future.

“Today we require tax returns, but what would be next?” former California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) reportedly asked in a 2017 veto of a similar measure that was introduced in his state.

“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?” he asked.

New Jersey state Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R) said in a statement to the local paper that the bill should be amended to apply to gubernatorial, state Senate and Assembly candidates, too.

“What’s good for the goose is what’s good for the gander,” Pennacchio told the publication. “If this really is about making sure voters are well-informed, then common sense dictates that [the bill] should apply to all of us.” 

Pennacchio’s amendments have reportedly been blocked by state Democrats.

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