Mass. High court judges hear ballot question arguments
May 3, 2022
By: Matthew Medsger
It’s hard to say how the state’s highest court took arguments from both sides of issues due to be decided by voters in the fall.
“The justices did not tip their hand and asked good questions to both sides,” Dan Ryan, a partner with Sullivan & Worcester explained to the Herald Wednesday, when the Supreme Judicial court’s docket included arguments over a ballot question to add a 4% tax to incomes over $1 million and an initiative before the Legislature which would create a new classification of workers to describe app-based drivers.
Opponents of the Fair Share Amendment, the so-called Millionaire’s Tax, told the court the language of the ballot question is misleading when it states money raised, $1 billion a year according to advocates, will be spent on education and transportation.
David Tuerck, president of the Beacon Hill Institute, says voters should be cautious.
“In 1992, voters approved an earmark related ballot question, only to see the legislature change their mind and not follow through on how the tax was supposed to be spent,” Tuerck said. “The amicus we filed with the court shows that less than 25 percent of the revenue from the 1992 ballot question was being used for the purpose voters had in mind.”
The Mass. High Tech Council’s President, Chris Anderson, filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Maura Healey in March alleging the same.
Proponents say the funds will, indeed, be spent as indicated by law.
“The funds raised are constitutionally dedicated to be spent on education and transportation,” a spokesperson for the Fair Share Campaign, the group behind the amendment, told the Herald.
Justices also heard arguments regarding a push to add a pair of questions to the ballot which would classify drivers as contractors. Opponents of the ballot measures sued the Attorney General, saying she erred when she certified the questions as constitutionally valid.
Healey has said it was her duty to certify the questions since they withstood scrutiny against the state constitution’s 48th amendment.
“We are confident that the court will agree with the Attorney General,” a spokesperson for the group behind the initiative said.
Healey sued Lyft and others in July of 2020, saying they were breaking state law by treating people who should be covered under employment law as contractors.
On Wednesday, justices asked if the language of those questions made sense enough to be legal, after a lawyer for the app based driving companies couldn’t answer specific questions about it.
“You’re asking the voters to vote on it, right?” Associate Justice Dalila Wendlandt asked. “You’re saying ‘here voters, here is this language, we don’t know what it means, the attorney general may think one thing, but we’re not going to explain it to you.”