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Trump wouldn't release his tax returns, so lawmakers move to make it mandatory for California's primary

 (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Legislation to require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns in order to gain a spot on California's presidential primary ballot won passage in the state Senate on Wednesday, but only after a tense debate that largely centered on President Trump.

Senate Bill 149 was approved on a strict party-line vote, 27-13. The bill now moves to the state Assembly, and was one of the last bills debated during a marathon session at the state Capitol to consider bills before a Friday deadline for action.

The bill would require presidential candidates to file copies of their income tax returns with state elections officials for the five most recent taxable years. Failure to do so would mean their name wouldn't appear on California's presidential primary ballot. The legislation was introduced in December, in the wake of Trump's refusal to disclose his tax returns during the 2016 campaign. The president has continued to reject calls for the information.

"He's shaping international policy which could enrich himself, and the American public has no way to know," state Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) said of Trump during Wednesday night's floor debate. "This legislation will help make transparency great again."

Republicans denounced the bill as another in a long line of efforts by Democrats in the Legislature to lash out at the election of Trump and the defeat of Hillary Clinton.

"I get it that some people hate Trump," state Sen. Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) said. "We've got to move ahead. We've got to get over it."

Tensions flared after Anderson tried to amend the bill on the floor — first, to require statewide and legislative candidates to also release their tax returns, and then to require a birth certificate from candidates who want access to the state's primary ballot. Both were rejected by Democrats.

A legislative analysis of SB 149 said some legal scholars believe the plan, which would be the first of its kind in the nation, would pass muster with the U.S. Constitution. Nonetheless, the analysis concluded that it would probably be challenged in court if signed into law.

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