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Rhode Island Tax Returns Bill Didn’t Pass

Q: Did Rhode Island pass a bill “to keep Trump off the 2020 ballot”?

A: No. Only one chamber passed a bill to require presidential candidates to disclose their federal tax returns.


A misleading headline posits that a certain state has passed a “Historic Bill To Keep Trump Off The 2020 Ballot.”

But that June 24 post, published by Bipartisan Report and elsewhere, and shared on Facebook, doesn’t tell the full story.

In reality, the bill in question was passed only by the Rhode Island Senate — and wasn’t considered by the state’s House of Representatives before the legislative session ended June 23.

The Senate bill would have required all presidential candidates to file their previous five years’ worth of federal income tax returns with the state Board of Elections before primary and general contests. The returns also would have been publicly disclosed. Noncompliant candidates would not have appeared on the state’s official ballot.

President Donald Trump notably flouted tradition in 2016 when he became the only major party presidential nominee since the late 1970s to not disclose his tax returns before Election Day.

The Bipartisan Report story does explain that only the Rhode Island Senate, and not the House, had passed the bill. But readers who didn’t get beyond the headline wouldn’t know that. And the story suggests that the legislation could still pass both chambers.

But despite the bill’s support in the state Senate — it received a 34-3 vote on June 19 — Larry Berman, director of communications for Rhode Island’s speaker of the House of Representatives, told CNN last week that the House did not have plans “to consider this bill in the final days of this year’s legislative session.”

“The House has no plans to pass it,” he added. “It takes two chambers to pass a bill.”

While experts maintain that voters stand to learn much from presidential candidates’ tax returns — including any potential conflicts of interest — questions remain about the constitutionality of measures mandating their release, which also have been considered in other states.

California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, vetoed such a bill last year, noting concerns about its constitutionality and stating that it would set “a ‘slippery slope’ precedent” that could lead to calls for more requirements for ballot access.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island expressed similar misgivings, saying the state’s bill “would set a dangerous precedent and impose qualifications exceeding those required by the Constitution on candidates to qualify for the ballot.”

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk false stories shared on the social media network.


Grayer, Annie. “Rhode Island latest state to try and fail to force Trump to release his tax returns.” CNN. 22 Jun 2018.

McGuinness, Dylan. “Rhode Island lawmakers meet for rare Saturday session.” Associated Press. 23 Jun 2018.

Presidential Tax Returns (S 2612A, H 7877).” Press release, American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island. 2018.

Rhode Island Senate. “S 2612 Substitute A, An Act Relating to Elections – Presidential Candidates.” as passed by the state Senate 19 Jun 2018.

Robertson, Lori and Farley, Robert. “Trump’s Tax Returns.” FactCheck.org. 12 May 2016.

Wells, David. “State Passes Historic Bill To Keep Trump Off The 2020 Ballot – Trump Prepares To Sue.” BipartisanReport.com. 24 Jun 2018.

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Sunday, June 24, 2018