Editorial: Bills counter Trump’s actions
In Vermont, two legislative bills currently being considered are direct reactions to Trump’s wrongs. One is a bill (S.77) requiring all presidential candidates who want to appear on Vermont’s primary ballot to first file five years of personal income tax returns; the second bill (S.79) would allow Vermont to block federal mobilization of state and local law enforcement to impose Trump’s deportation rules without the consent of the governor. The bill would also restrict the gathering of personal information that might be used to discriminate against people based on race, color, religion or nationality, such as the creation of a Muslim registry.
The latter bill is being fast-tracked through the state legislature in response to a presidential order that could substantially increase the reasons for the deportation of immigrants, and according to the presidential order, compel local and state law enforcement officials to help carry out those orders. The presidential order could have also made state officials create lists that, opponents feared, may have been used in inappropriate ways.
S.79 is an attempt to, at the very least, slow down the implementation of such an order by excluding federal conscription of local law enforcement professionals. The president can still mandate that federal Border Patrol agents carry out his orders, but that will require hiring more federal agents.
Some conservative Trump supporters have chaffed at Gov. Scott’s defiance of Trump, but Scott’s response has been consistent: he has called Trump’s action an “over-reach” of federal authority on state rights, and, as importantly, has defended the safety and protection working immigrants living in Vermont peaceably and without incident. Scott is also defending the state’s farm economy from a disaster in the making. There are about 1,500 immigrant workers serving the state’s dairy industry and there are a known number who may not have all their papers in order; force them out of the state and the farm economy here will take a major hit, including the potential closing of numerous dairy farms — the exact opposite of what Gov. Scott wants to see. Perhaps Trump doesn’t care what happens to local dairy farmers, but Gov. Scott is right to recognize the potential harm and push back. He deserves our support.
As for S.77, the bill requiring presidential candidates to file their personal tax returns before being placed on Vermont’s primary and general ballots, it’s an idea being considered by several other states as well, including California, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Hawaii. There is strength in numbers and that makes this idea much more compelling, particularly as it would most probably face a legal challenge.
But the need for such a requirement is without question. In the 40 years since the tradition was started by Gov. Jimmy Carter, every presidential candidate in the general election has voluntarily released their personal tax returns until Donald Trump refused to do so this year. Today, with Trump’s personal association with Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin causing grave concerns about his financial connections to Russia and how much of Trump’s debt they may be holding, the national security needs for such inspection is beyond doubt. And with candidates and elections now being at the mercy of special interest groups and the obscene amounts of campaign money they raise, thanks to Citizens v United, the problem will only be compounded in future elections.
This should not be a partisan issue, of course, but a simple issue of transparency. All Americans should want their presidential candidates to be affront with any potential conflicts of interest, and candidates should know that before they embark on running for president.
In Vermont’s proposed bill, the language includes the state’s primary ballot as well as the general ballot. Other states have made the requirement just for the general election, not the primary, and other states have called for three years of returns rather than Vermont’s five years. Those details can be tweaked later, hopefully acknowledging that the goal should be uniformity among states so that any legal challenge could be fought en masse.
That states are scrambling in these first four weeks to restrict the power of president with a despotic nature does not bode well.
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