The California Supreme Court issued a stinging defeat to Gov. Gavin Newsom – and handed a big victory to President Donald Trump – on Thursday.
The court soundly rejected arguments in favor of Senate Bill 27, the “Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act.” SB 27 purported to require presidential candidates to release five years of tax returns before they could appear on California’s ballot. It was designed to troll Trump, who refuses to release his tax returns despite promises to do so.
In urging Newsom to veto the silly stunt bill, we noted that it was unlikely to survive inevitable legal challenges and would force California taxpayers to fund frivolous court battles. We reminded the governor that the United States Constitution does not require presidential candidates to release their tax returns, making victory for SB 27 unlikely in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sure, President Donald Trump should keep his promise and release his tax returns. His apparent terror at what they might reveal, made obvious by his desperate legal battles to keep them hidden, raises troubling questions.
But SB 27 was so ridiculous and flawed that even California’s justices could barely conceal their disdain. During oral arguments earlier this month, justices expressed scathing skepticism toward the bill.
“Where does it end? Do we get all high school report cards?” asked Justice Ming Chin.
“We’ve searched the record to determine whether or not the California Legislature even considered the California constitution in the drafting of SB 27. We didn’t find anything. Did you?” asked Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye.
On Thursday, the court voted unanimously to smack down the bill, ruling that SB 27 “is in conflict with the (state) constitution’s specification of an inclusive open presidential primary ballot,” according to The Sacramento Bee.
The California Supreme Court is no bastion of conservatism. Most of the sitting justices were appointed by Newsom’s predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown. Unlike Newsom, Brown’s a lawyer. He vetoed a similar bill in 2017.
You don’t need a brilliant legal mind to see the stupidity of SB 27. The law was unnecessary because Trump has no chance whatsoever of winning in California. A shrinking 25 percent of Californians identify as Republican, and Democrats hold every statewide office. Why keep Trump off of the ballot in a state he has no chance of winning?
SB 27’s one saving grace: It earned Newsom some cheap national buzz and landed him interviews on the cable news shows he craves. Now dream time is over and it’s time to get back to work.
Governor of California is a tough and important job – even more so today than in the past. When the state’s not burning due to wildfires, it’s engulfed in blackouts. Tent villages have multiplied in every major city because so many people can no longer afford to live here. Our county jails have become death zones as overcrowding and lack of oversight breed horror and neglect.
We could go on and on, but here’s the point: If the governor needs something to occupy his time, there are plenty of intractable problems he has tremendous power to affect.
Newsom must let Congress handle impeachment and let the Democratic Party deal with the 2020 presidential election. He must focus his own efforts on the job Californians elected him to do.
SB 27 provided a cheap high. Now it’s time to stop the frivolous flailing and get busy with the real work.