Election transparency measure passes Colorado House

Presidential candidates would be required to release documents

By Luke Perkins Herald Staff Writer | Tuesday, April 25, 2017 9:42 AM

DENVER – Colorado lawmakers on Friday pushed forward a measure to increase transparency in presidential elections.

House Bill 1328, which would require candidates for president and vice president to submit their tax returns to the Colorado secretary of state as a condition of being placed on the ballot, was passed on a 36-28 party-line vote, with Republicans opposed.Rep.  Chris Hansen, D-Denver, said HB 1328 is needed after the refusal of President Donald Trump to make his tax returns public. “There’s no doubt that the 2016 election is on everybody’s mind, it would be silly to pretend otherwise, but I think it’s that experience that highlights the importance of requiring this disclosure,” Hansen said.

Trump’s reluctance to release his returns breaks what Hansen believes is a long-standing tradition in national politics that has until now been an “unwritten rule” crucial to the electoral process. “The voters of Colorado deserve the ability to evaluate their presidential candidates (and) their vice presidential candidates based on their financial dealings, and the tax return is the most straightforward, easy way to make sure that information is available for voters,” Hansen said.

But not everyone in the Colorado House of Representatives agreed. Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, R-Highlands Ranch, said he voted against the bill because he felt it was unconstitutional, as it overstepped the state’s purview by placing a requirement on a federal office. “This is a separations-of-powers issue. The Federal Elections Commission determines what rule federal offices in these elections must follow, and that’s why we have a federal government,” Van Winkle said.

Hansen responded by saying he believes that is a mischaracterization of what HB 1328 requires. “It’s not like there’s a qualification or a bar that has to be met here. It’s simply submitting the forms, just like we require lots of other forms to be submitted when you’re running for office,” he said. But the concern was not mitigated during the final reading and resulted in the party-line vote, which Hansen said was unfortunate, as there is bipartisan support for similar pieces of legislation across the nation and in Washington, D.C. A number of Republican senators in Washington have expressed an interest in disclosure, and U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett, R-Virginia, introduced a bill earlier this month requiring president-elects to submit tax returns.

HB 1328 heads to the Republican-controlled Senate.

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