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Lawmakers approve bill requiring presidential candidates to release tax returns


California could become the first state in the nation to require presidential primary candidates to release their tax returns prior to getting on the state ballot following action Thursday by the state Assembly.

The Presidential Tax Transparency & Accountability Act, sponsored by state Sens. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, and Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, cleared the Assembly and is headed back to the Senate for an anticipated concurrence before moving to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

The measure, a direct response to President Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, would require presidential candidates to release the last five years of their tax returns, which would be posted on the California Secretary of State’s website.

“President Trump’s blatant disregard for the tradition of releasing tax returns is dangerous to our democracy,” McGuire said in a press release. The bill “helps to re-establish desperately needed transparency in the White House,” he said.

Every president since Jimmy Carter has voluntarily released at least three years of tax returns, according to the Tax History Project.

The bill, endorsed by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, passed the Assembly on a 42-18 vote.

A flurry of similar bills in other states stalled earlier this year.

In other legislative action Thursday, the state Senate approved and sent to the governor a bill that would allow Bay Area voters to approve raising bridge tolls by as much as $3 to pay for more than $4.4 billion in regional transportation projects, including more than $500 million earmarked for Sonoma and Marin counties.

A majority of voters in all nine Bay Area counties would have to approve toll hikes next year on seven state-owned bridges, excluding the local district-owned Golden Gate Bridge.

The funding plan includes:

$120 million for the Narrows on Highway 101 in Novato;

$40 million toward extending the SMART commuter train to Windsor;

$100 million to elevate flood-prone sections of Highway 37;

$135 million for improvements to the Highway 101-Interstate 580 interchange in San Rafael;

$30 million for the San Rafael Transit Center; and

$100 million for North Bay transit improvements.

McGuire said the congestion-relief projects would provide “a giant antacid for the commuters who have to slug through these traffic jams every day.”

A citizens oversight commission would be established to oversee the expenditures, he said.

California could become the first state to ban the sale of animals from so-called puppy mills or mass breeding operations under legislation sent Thursday to Brown by lawmakers.

Animal rights groups are cheering the bill by Democratic Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, to require pet stores to work with animal shelters or rescue operations if they want to sell dogs, cats or rabbit.

Thirty-six cities in California, including Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Francisco already have similar bans in place, but no statewide bans exist.

“We’ve actually seen a thriving pet industry based on the model of getting these from shelters,” said Democratic Assemblyman Matt Dababneh of Encino.

Brown spokesman Brian Ferguson declined comment on whether the governor plans to sign it.

Private breeders would still be allowed to sell dogs, cats and rabbits directly to individuals.

Supporters of the bill say it’s aimed at encouraging families and individual buyers to work directly with breeders or to adopt pets in shelters. It also would ensure animals are bred and sold healthily and humanely, supporters said.

Few pet stores in California are still selling animals and many already team up with rescue organizations to facilitate adoptions, according to O’Donnell’s office.

“Californians spend more than $250 million a year to house and euthanize animals in our shelters,” O’Donnell said in a statement. “Protecting the pets that make our house a home is an effort that makes us all proud.”

The bill would also require pet stores to maintain records showing where each dog, cat or rabbit it sells came from and to publicly display that information. A violation of the law would carry a $500 civil fine.

Meanwhile, a bill seeking to phase out fossil fuels in California’s energy grid was struggling in the Assembly.

Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, said the bill lacks support and won’t come up for a vote in the Utilities and Energy Committee that he leads. SB100 was written by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, who is pressuring the Assembly to approve the bill by today.

Several celebrities, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio, have tweeted their support this week.

Other legislation sent to Brown Thursday would:

Allow Californians to choose a third gender option of ‘non-binary’ when applying for a driver’s license or other state-issued identification card;

End a practice known as school lunch shaming, in which children are denied a meal or given an alternative if their parents fail to pay their lunch bills. Backers of the bill say children shouldn’t be used as debt-collection instruments.

Prohibit the sale of marijuana edibles shaped like a person, animal, insect or fruit. It’s an attempt to prevent pot-infused sweets from appealing to children.

This story was compiled by reports from Staff Writer Guy Kovner and the Associated Press. You can reach Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457.