Biss04272017Voters have the right to know as much as possible about the financial conflicts of interest of men and women who want to be president of the United States, and Illinois could become a national leader in requiring candidates to disclose such information.

Senate Bill 982, sponsored by State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), passed 32-19 in the Illinois Senate on Thursday and will go to the Illinois House for consideration. Under the legislation, presidential candidates would have to release five years’ worth of income tax returns before they could appear on the ballot in Illinois.

“This is about transparency and good government,” Biss said. “It’s something we need, and, frankly, it’s something I wish we’d had a year and a half ago.”

Federal law requires presidential candidates to complete financial disclosure forms that include information about income, property, liabilities, investments and certain financial interests of family members, but candidates are not required to release tax returns. Until 2016, major-party candidates for president voluntarily had released their returns since the Ford administration in an effort to appear transparent with voters.

Under Biss’ the legislation, candidates would not appear on the ballot in Illinois if they don’t comply at least five days before certification of the ballot for the general election. It also applies to candidates for vice president.

Biss said voters should be able to look at information about a presidential candidate’s sources of income and investments so they can understand where potential conflicts of interests may lie – a critical consideration for the most powerful elected office in the nation.

“Voters should be able to make up their own minds a candidate based upon their own priorities and their own interests,” Biss said. “I think we can all agree that it is in the public’s best interest to make sure they have all the information they need to make the best possible decision at the polls.”

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