By Amelia Heymann
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – A bill to require presidential candidates to release their tax returns to get on the ballot in Virginia died in a legislative subcommittee Thursday.
Democratic Del. Mark Levine of Alexandria submitted HB 2444 after Donald Trump refused to make his tax returns public during the Republican nominee’s successful presidential campaign last fall. It had been a tradition for presidential hopefuls to disclose their tax returns; candidates had done so for 40 years.
“It had been done not as required by law, but because the presidential candidates felt that the voters had a right to know,” Levine said.
Under his bill, in the paperwork to get on the ballot on Virginia, a presidential candidate would have had to “attach a statement, signed under penalty of perjury by the person seeking the nomination, that he has disclosed (i) his federal tax returns from each year of the 10-year period immediately preceding the general election and (ii) any payments or remuneration exceeding $1,000 received from any foreign source during the 10-year period immediately preceding the general election.”
The bill was considered Thursday morning by a subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee.
When no one stood to speak in favor or opposition the bill, Del. Nick Rush, chairman of House Subcommittee on Campaigns, expressed his disapproval of the legislation.
“I’ll have to say Del. Levine, you had a very good bill this morning at Appropriations,” said Rush, a Republican from Montgomery County. “It was well thought out; it would help your constituents and help the commonwealth. This bill is not that. This bill is partisan in nature; it’s really wasted this committee’s time.”
Despite such feelings, Levine says polls show most Americans, including Republicans, believe the president’s business interests are important to know about.
Trump, a Republican, has been under pressure to disclose his tax returns because critics say that his business enterprises may present a conflict of interest. Some think Trump has avoided releasing his tax returns to hide certain business interests – in Russia, for example.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, said Trump is “not going to release his tax returns. We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care. They voted for him,” she said.
A petition posted on the White House website suggests that some people do care about the issue. The petition, which asks Trump to release his tax returns, has received more than 475,000 signatures.
Del. Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg, said he believed Levine’s bill addressed an issue the U.S. Congress should deal with. In fact, such a bill is pending before Congress.
The hearing on Levine’s bill lasted only about three minutes before the subcommittee decided on a voice vote to kill it.
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University's Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.