Rhode Island has become the latest state to try and fail to pass legislation that would put pressure on President Donald Trump to release his tax returns ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Trump is the only president in the last 40 years to not release his tax returns. The state Senate in Rhode Island passed a bill this week that would prevent any presidential candidate who has not released tax returns for at least the last five years from being on the state’s ballot in 2020.
The bill passed overwhelmingly in the state Senate, 34-3, but Larry Berman, the director of communications for the Rhode Island speaker of the House, told CNN that it will not be brought to the floor there.
“The House is not planning to consider this bill in the final days of this year’s legislative session,” Berman said. “The House has no plans to pass it. It takes two chambers to pass a bill.”
State Sen. Gayle Goldin, a Democrat who was a lead cosponsor of the bill, told CNN, “Ever since President Nixon’s tax evasion, we have had every major presidential candidate release their tax returns as they are running for office, which has provided more transparency about the taxes they’ve paid and their financial investments.”
Several other states have introduced similar legislation. However, none have so far succeeded in turning their bills into law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Richard L. Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California Irvine Law School who specializes in election law and legislation, called the strategy of these types of bills “uncertain.”
“In blue states, there is a real desire to do whatever possible to make it harder for President Trump to succeed,” said Hasen. “But I think it’s an uncertain strategy, and ultimately if any state adopts this, and it leads to a candidate being left off the ballot for not releasing his or her tax returns, the issue is likely to end up in the courts.”
Hasen referred to legislation like that in Rhode Island as “unprecedented,” given that the two court cases that address ballot access pertain only to congressional, not presidential, elections. But he predicted that this issue is not going away.
“I expect at least one state will pass a law like this before the next presidential election,” Hasen said.