OLYMPIA - A bill that would require presidential candidates to release their tax returns before appearing on the state primary ballot has passed the Senate.
President Donald Trump could be removed from Washington state ballot if he doesn't release his tax returns under the new legislation.
The legislation would require candidates to release five years of returns before they could appear on either the primary or general election ballot in the state.
Senate Bill 5078 passed by a margin of 28-21. The bill now heads to the House. According to the bill's main sponsor, Sen. Patty Kuderer, the proposal was inspired by President Trump's refusal to release his tax returns.
"Although releasing tax returns has been the norm for about the last 40 years in presidential elections, unfortunately we've seen that norm broken," Kuderer, Bellevue (D), said during debate on Tuesday. Kuderer later stated she was referring to Trump.
How a candidate has handled their own financial affairs and personal investments are relevant details for voters choosing a commander-in-chief, Kuderer added.
"It's become part of the vetting process," Kuderer said later.
The proposal would apply only to candidates for president and vice president.
The bill states:
"Presidential candidates who do not comply with the 9 requirements of subsection (1) of this section may not appear on the 10 presidential preference primary ballot."
The bill continues, "By sixty-three days before a general presidential election, all candidates for president and vice president shall comply with the requirements of subsection (1) of this section. Candidates for president or vice president who do not comply with the requirements of this subsection may not appear on the general election ballot."
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and solicitor general Noah Purcell told lawmakers in an advisory letter issued before Tuesday's vote they thought the proposal was legal.
"The disclosure requirement you propose is likely Constitutional," the pair wrote.
Ferguson and Purcell continued to say in the same letter that because of the many possible interpretations of the law, if it passed the bill "would definitely be challenged in court."
In addition to requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns, the bill would also direct the Secretary of State to post them publicly.
The bill can be read in it's entirety here.