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Expected Mass. SJC Decision On 'Millionaire Tax' Goes Beyond That Ballot Question

A constitutional convention debates the so-called "millionaire's tax" on May 18, 2016.
Shira Schoenberg
The Republican
A constitutional convention debates the so-called "millionaire's tax" on May 18, 2016 in a file photo.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court holds the fate of a roughly $2 billion tax proposal to fund transportation and education. 

Matt Murphy with the State House News Service tells us what is expected from the SJC, and whether that proposal inching farther, or closer, to appearing on the ballot in November.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: Yeah, this really has become something of a daily vigil up here on Beacon Hill -- waiting every morning to see whether or not the Supreme Judicial Court will issue their decision in the case.

Some business groups are seeking to knock the millionaire's tax off the ballot. They heard arguments in this case back in February, and as the weeks turned into months and pushed into June, now, basically every day people are watching to see if they will issue this decision.

And how they rule will have a lot to say with how negotiations go on Beacon Hill over some other ballot questions, including the minimum wage, a proposal from retailers to lower the sales tax, and some talks over paid family and medical leave -- which are all wrapped up, because they all kind of impact the business community.

The business community is working with Raise Up Massachusetts, which is behind all three of the other ballot questions, so the SJC decision really could carry a lot of weight beyond just the millionaire's tax proposal.

Carrie Healy, NEPR: The so-called "red flag" bill was passed in the Senate last week. Both branches of the legislature have created a new judicial process that could temporarily take guns away from dangerous individuals. But there are differences between the House and Senate versions – what happens next?   

We believe that the governor is inclined to support this, once it reaches his desk. He has not said that explicitly, but people close to him suggest he doesn't have much of an appetite to veto a gun-control measure this year as he's running for reelection.  The question now becomes, 'How quickly can the House and Senate can resolve their differences?'

The basic tenet of this bill, that people close to a gun owner: family, roommates, spouses, could petition the courts to have those guns taken away from them temporarily because they may pose a risk themselves or others. This would apply for up to a year that these guns could be taken away from gun owners and their permits revoked. That is a point of agreement between the branches. There are minor details, particularly around how they would regulate stun guns, which is sort of an ancillary issue that cropped up, and they're trying to deal with it in this bill.  I would expect that they can reach a deal rather quickly.

The Senate passed their red flag measure on a voice vote. Was that calculated, or done out of expediency?

That was interesting, and usually these things tend to be calculated. They did take this up on a voice vote and it may have been a nod to some of the Senators who are facing challenges this cycle -- particularly in districts in central and western Massachusetts, where gun rates tend to be more popular and important in these electoral contests.

And by doing so, these Democratic members didn't have to go on record and vote for this bill, even though they might have supported it.

This is usually a calculated measure, intended to protect their members from ads and campaigns, and some of the stuff that can come along with recorded roll call votes. I'm not entirely positive that that was the case in this situation, but that's typically why these things are done this way.

There has been a month of protests now by the group called the Poor People’s Campaign. Has their action each week influenced lawmakers either on the gun bill, or any of the issues that group is campaigning around?

They have certainly made themselves known. They've been up here, very loud, very vocal, staging some big rallies in the State House. They have a diverse agenda.

They're talking about all kinds of issues, as you said, from gun violence to environmental causes, and other issues impacting the low-income families across Massachusetts.  

I can't say that any lawmakers have directly cited their campaigns, and their activities, for some of the actions that’ve taken place. But certainly as House and Senate lawmakers take a look at their budget, and they're debating things like housing programs and rental vouchers, and things of this nature, the Poor People's Campaign has certainly made itself known.

It is something to be considered for lawmakers as they make these decisions about where critical funding goes.

Keep up here with Beacon Hill In 5.

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