Donald Trump consistently refused to release his tax returns, and that may have prevented the public from being able to draw a clear picture of the candidate. Certainly, the returns could have shown the public whether he had reported financial dealings with Russia before, during, and after the 2016 presidential election. Some states have had enough with Washington, D.C.’s inaction and moved on their own.
In the past, all presidents in recent memory have released their tax returns. President Gerald Ford instituted the practice beginning in 1976, setting a 40-year precedent. However, the country soon learned that there is a big difference between precedents and the law. Donald Trump was well within his legal rights to refuse.
Trump’s excuse for not releasing his returns was that he was undergoing an audit. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) knocked the legs out from under his argument, saying there was nothing that stopped Trump for doing so.
The Maryland Senate passed a bill through its senate that required both the presidential and vice presidential candidates to take this action before they could appear on that state’s voting ballots. All candidates must release their tax returns, if the law passes.
The state senate voted 28-17 to pass the legislation, with only four Democrats voting against it, according to The Baltimore Sun. Baltimore County Senator James Brochin (D) was critical of the move:
‘Show me in the Constitution where it says that’s a qualification for being president of the United States. We can’t go along and make up rules when we don’t like the president of the United States.’
Senator Paul Pinsky (D) of Prince George’s County disagreed with Brochin. Four Democrats claimed that the law for presidential candidates and their vice presidents to release their tax returns would not stand up to a legal challenge.
Pinsky told them he had asked an assistant attorney general’s legal opinion on the matter, and she told him that it was “not clearly unconstitutional.” The Prince George’s County Democrat said:
‘She equivocated, OK? This has not been tested in the courts.’
In addition to Brochin, Democratic senators James DeGrange, James Mathias, and Katherine Klausmeier voted against the measure. Both Brochin and Maryland Minority Whip Stephen Hershey (R) tried to delay the vote, but they were unsuccessful in their two attempts.
The president of the state senate, Thomas Mike Miller (D) rejected both attempts to delay, telling the Baltimore Sun:
‘This is the most childish bill that I’ve ever seen and I’m embarrassed that it’s on the floor.’
If Maryland enacted this law, it would be the first state to require presidential candidates and vice presidents to share their tax returns for a period of five years.
This was not the first time that a state tried to pass a tax return law applicable to presidential candidates. However, both the New Jersey and California governors vetoed like measures.
The Baltimore Sun reported law professor Richard Hasen said that in a 1995 Supreme Court decision, jurists found that should states add new qualifications for federal candidates:
‘(The law) would erode the structure designed by the Framers to form a “more perfect Union.”‘
Conversely, in Article II of the Constitution, it notes that states can direct “the manner” for selecting their presidential candidates.
Additionally, in Bush v Gore, the Supreme Court gave state legislatures broad powers in presidential elections. That decision allowed states to set candidates’ limits on their ballots.
After the bill has passed the state senate, it moved to the Democratic-majority House. At this time, the Republican Governor Larry Hogan has not indicated whether he would sign the bill into law.
Featured Image via Getty Images/Jeff Swensen.