New Jersey is moving forward with legislation that would keep President Donald Trump off the ballot unless he lets state officials put his tax returns online.
Trump has refused to follow the custom set by past presidents and has not released his tax returns, saying they are under audit. There is no legal requirement that the president make his tax returns public.
On Thursday, the New Jersey State Senate passed a bill requiring that candidates for president and vice president submit their federal income tax returns to the Division of Elections, the Courier Post reported.
The Senate vote was a largely party-line affair, with most Democrats supporting it and most Republicans opposed. The bill will next be considered by New Jersey’s Assembly.
New Jersey passed a similar measure in 2017, but it was vetoed by then-Governor Chris Christie. At that time, Christie called the proposal a “transparent political stunt masquerading as a bill” and “politics at its worst.”
Christie has since left office and was replaced by Democrat and Trump critic Gov. Phil Murphy.
According to the legislation, candidates have to share their tax returns no later than 50 days before the election, Patch has reported. The state then has seven days to process them before they are put online.
The bill gives the state discretion to redact information it believes should be kept private.
A bill sponsor insisted voters need to know what is in Trump’s taxes.
“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,” said state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat.
One critic derided the law.
“It’s just political pandering,” said John Carbone, an attorney at the firm of Carbone & Faasse in Ridgewood, New Jersey.
“They can impose no requirements for a candidate for federal office, let alone president,” Carbone said. “They’re thinking like Alabama Democrats during the Civil War: What can we do to get Lincoln?”
The bill also seeks to bar any elector in the Electoral College from casting a ballot for a candidate who has not shared a tax return with the state.
Republican state Sen. Joe Pennacchio tried to tack on an amendment requiring all candidates for all state offices to disclose their taxes.
“What’s good for the goose is what’s good for the gander,” Pennacchio said in a statement. “If this really is about making sure voters are well-informed, then common sense dictates that S-119 should apply to all of us.”
Pennachio said the defeat of his amendment proved the bill is nothing but politics.
“Clearly, their bill is nothing more than a thinly veiled political stunt to keep President Trump off the ballot,” Pennachio said, according to NJ.com. “It shows that they are unwilling to hold themselves to the same standard.”
Although the bill might be aimed at Trump, it might never impact him. The last Republican to win the state in a presidential election was George Herbert Walker Bush in 1988.
Although other states are considering similar measures, none have gone as far as the New Jersey law.
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