The New Jersey Senate passed a controversial bill on Thursday that forces Donald Trump to release his tax returns if he wants to appear on the state's 2020 presidential ballot. The Democratic body overwhelmingly passed the measure, which would deny any presidential or vice presidential candidate from appearing on the ballot if they don't release their tax returns from the five previous years.
The bill now heads to assembly committee and then a full legislature vote before heading to the Democratic Governor Phil Murphy to be passed or vetoed, according to New Jersey Courier Post.
The state legislature had passed a similar bill once before in 2017, but it was vetoed by the then-Governor Chris Christie on the grounds that it was obvious political maneuvering.
If the bill passes, it would force any candidate to release five years of tax returns within 50 days of the general election. It also prevents electors from the Electoral College for voting for a candidate who hasn't released their taxes. The measure is meant to address concerns that the current president could have financial ties that could compromise his ability to make objective decisions in office because of undisclosed financial ties.
State Senator Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, says she believes voters may have made a different decision of President Trump had released his 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," she said.New Jersey isn't the first state to attempt to pass such a measure. Similar bills have been introduced in 30 states, but none of have passed yet, which would make New Jersey the first.
But critics say use the "slippery slope" argument to suggest that it would open the floodgates to measure that could be an undo burden on candidates.
The former governor of California, Jerry Brown, a Democrat, asked what people would be demanding next when a similar measure was introduced in his state, according to CNN.
"First, it may not be constitutional. Second, it sets a 'slippery slope' precedent. Today we require tax returns, but what would be next?" he asked. "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?"
The bill would likely face challenges in regards to its constitutionality, but supporters say that states have the ability to regulate candidates in such a way.