By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – A new California law requiring presidential candidates to release five years of tax returns to qualify for the state’s primary ballot is similar to a measure an Illinois state senator called “the most clearly unconstitutional legislative proposal” he ever voted on.
According to the Associated Press, the California law, which also applies to candidates for governor in the state, will face a likely legal challenge on U.S. Constitutional grounds.
That’s something Dale Righter, a Mattoon Republican, predicted would happen when a similar bill passed the Illinois Senate on partisan lines earlier this year before stalling in a House committee.
Unlike the California law, Senate Bill 145, the Illinois bill sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Tony Munoz, would have applied to general elections. All presidential candidates would have had to release their previous five years of tax returns to be eligible for the ballot.
The Associated Press reported that California’s state constitution prohibits the state from regulating access to a general election ballot.
At the time of the Illinois debate, Righter cited two Supreme Court cases, Term Limits v. Thornton and Cook v. Gralike, which he believes set a precedent of unconstitutionality for ballot qualification measures.
Activists from the progressive advocacy group Indivisible Chicago disagreed at a March hearing of the bill, reading from a statement made by Harvard Constitutional law scholar Lawrence Tribe, which said the mandated release of tax returns would not be unconstitutional.
The Illinois bill also did not apply to candidates for governor or other constitutional officers.
Munoz’s office said the Chicago Democrat was unsure why the bill stalled in the house, but he was willing to expand the bill to include other elected officials if he calls it again in the future.