Massachusetts Teachers Ass'n v. Secretary of Com.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Writing for the CourtBefore HENNESSEY; WILKINS
Citation424 N.E.2d 469,384 Mass. 209
Decision Date04 August 1981
PartiesMASSACHUSETTS TEACHERS ASSOCIATION et al. 1 v. SECRETARY OF the COMMONWEALTH et al. 2 (and two companion cases 3 ).

Page 469

424 N.E.2d 469
384 Mass. 209
MASSACHUSETTS TEACHERS ASSOCIATION et al. 1
v.
SECRETARY OF the COMMONWEALTH et al. 2 (and
two companion cases 3).
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk.
Argued May 4, 1981.
Decided Aug. 4, 1981.

Page 472

[384 Mass. 212] Robert J. Muldoon, Jr., and Peter J. McCue, Boston, for Massachusetts Teachers Ass'n et al.

Mark J. Dalton, Boston (Robert J. Canavan, Boston, with him), for Intern. Broth. of Police Officers et al.

Joseph G. Sandulli, Boston, for Massachusetts Coalition of Police, AFL-CIO.

Donald K. Stern, Asst. Atty. Gen. (James A. Aloisi, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., with him), for Secretary of the Com. et al. (Russell B. Higley, City Sol., for city of Cambridge, with him).

Paul J. McCarthy and Jeanne C. Farrah, Boston, for Massachusetts Police Ass'n, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.

Before [384 Mass. 209] HENNESSEY, C. J., and WILKINS, ABRAMS, NOLAN and LYNCH, JJ.

[384 Mass. 212] WILKINS, Justice.

At the November, 1980, general election, acting under the initiative process of the Constitution of the Commonwealth, the voters adopted as chapter 580 of the Acts of 1980 a tax limitation measure commonly known as Proposition 2 1/2. 4 The plaintiffs contend that Proposition 2 1/2 was not a proper subject of an initiative petition and

Page 473

that procedural requirements of the initiative process authorized by the Constitution were not adequately followed in the presentation of Proposition 2 1/2 to the voters. They also raise before us a challenge to the constitutionality [384 Mass. 213] of a substantive provision of Proposition 2 1/2, that is a challenge which could have been made if Proposition 2 1/2 had been adopted by the Legislature rather than through the initiative process. 5

These cases are before us on a report (see Mass.R.Civ.P. 64, 365 Mass. 831 (1974)) by a judge of the Superior Court of the propriety of his rulings, which (a) declared that Proposition 2 1/2 was adopted in a constitutionally adequate manner according to the procedures set forth in art. 48 of the Amendments to the Constitution of the Commonwealth, as amended by art. 74 of the Amendments, 6 and (b) rejected the only substantive challenge to Proposition 2 1/2 which the judge concluded was properly before him. We granted a request for an expeditious, direct appeal to this court. We agree with each of the judge's rulings challenged in this court.

The Procedural Background

In resolving the issues that underlie the judge's rulings that have been reported for appellate consideration, it is not generally important to differentiate among the three actions brought to challenge Proposition 2 1/2. Each was commenced shortly after the adoption of Proposition 2 1/2, two in the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County, and the third in the Superior Court, after a single justice of this court had transferred the first two actions to the Superior Court. It is sufficient to note that the actions were consolidated for pretrial purposes in the Superior Court. On December 8, 1980, the judge denied the plaintiffs' requests for preliminary injunctions against the implementation of Proposition 2 1/2. Subsequently, each party moved for summary judgment or for partial summary judgment, and various affidavits were filed. On March 31, 1981, in a comprehensive[384 Mass. 214] and thoughtful memorandum, the judge allowed summary judgment in favor of the Commonwealth defendants and denied the plaintiffs' motions for summary or partial summary judgment. He stated that "(a) declaration will enter that St.1980, c. 580 has been constitutionally adopted by the people of the Commonwealth and that its provisions are, on their face, constitutional." He then reported the propriety of his rulings to the Appeals Court.

The judge stated that he expressed no opinion whether Proposition 2 1/2, "in its operation, will impair the obligation of contracts or deny to any of the citizens of the Commonwealth the equal protection of the laws." He had earlier concluded that the impairment of contract issue was not ripe for adjudication. No argument has been made here based on a claim of an unconstitutional impairment of the obligation of contracts or on the denial of equal protection of the laws in the application of Proposition 2 1/2 in particular circumstances. In this opinion, we consider only those rulings of the judge that are argued in the plaintiffs' briefs filed in this court.

The judge dismissed the Massachusetts Coalition of Police, AFL-CIO, as a party plaintiff on the ground that it was an unincorporated association not capable of suing or being sued. Because there is at least one plaintiff who has standing to raise each of the issues argued to us, as the Attorney General grants, we do not pause to determine which particular plaintiff or plaintiffs are entitled to advance particular issues or whether the judge was correct in dismissing the Massachusetts Coalition of Police, AFL-CIO, as a party plaintiff. See Save the Bay, Inc. v. Department of Pub. Utils., 366 Mass. 667, 674-675, 322 N.E.2d 742 (1975). The individual plaintiffs who are citizens and qualified voters have standing

Page 474

to argue that Proposition 2 1/2 was not constitutionally adopted. See Cohen v. Attorney Gen., 354 Mass. 384, 387, 237 N.E.2d 657 (1968) (qualified voters); Sears v. Treasurer & Receiver Gen., 327 Mass. 310, 314-315, 98 N.E.2d 621 (1951) (citizens). At least one plaintiff is a home owner who has standing to raise the substantive[384 Mass. 215] constitutional challenge to the renter's income tax deduction allowed by Proposition 2 1/2. 7

Proposition 2 1/2

Proposition 2 1/2 (St.1980, c. 580) is entitled "An Act Limiting State and Local Taxation and Expenditures." Certain of its sections place limitations on the amount of tax or other revenue permitted to be collected. Thus, for example, the maximum motor vehicle excise payable to cities and towns is reduced from $66.00 to $25.00 per $1,000 of valuation. G.L. c. 60A, § 1, as amended by St.1980, c. 580, § 9. Proposition 2 1/2 grants a tax deduction in the calculation of a taxpayer's State income tax in an amount equal to one-half of the rent paid for his or her principal place of residence. G. L. c. 62, § 3B(a)(9), inserted by St.1980, c. 580, § 11. A somewhat different provision limits charges and fees for goods provided or services rendered by a city, town, or other governmental agency to the "cost of furnishing such goods or providing such services." G. L. c. 59, § 20A, inserted by St.1980, c. 580, § 12.

Most significantly, Proposition 2 1/2 places a limitation on the total taxes permitted to be assessed annually on a municipality's real or personal property. G.L. c. 59, § 21C, inserted by St.1980, c. 580, § 1. The total annual assessments of most cities and towns may not exceed 2 1/2 of the full and fair cash valuation of their real and personal property, unless that percentage is increased by a two-thirds vote at a general election. G. L. c. 59, § 21C(1). See G. L. c. 59, § 21C(4). If a municipality exceeds 2 1/2 "on the effective date of the enactment of (§ 21C)," the municipality need not necessarily lower its total assessments to 2 1/2 immediately. It must reduce its assessments annually by not less than 15% of the total taxes assessed in the fiscal year of that effective date until it reaches the level of 2 1/2. G. L. c. 59, § 21C(2). If a municipality's total assessments were less than 2 1/2 of the full and fair cash valuation of its property in fiscal year 1979, it must use that lesser percentage in lieu of 2 1/2. G. L. [384 Mass. 216] c. 59, § 21C(3). There is also a provision limiting increases in tax assessments in each successive year to 2 1/2 of the preceding year's assessments but authorizing an increase in that percentage by a two-thirds vote at a general election. G. L. c. 59, § 21C(4). Also, the 2 1/2 limitation, or any other applicable percentage limitation, may be reduced in a city or town by a majority vote at a general election. G. L. c. 59, § 21C(5).

Other portions of Proposition 2 1/2 are concerned with freeing cities and towns from expenditures mandated by State law. Thus, the fiscal autonomy of school committees is abolished (see G. L. c. 71, §§ 16B and 34, as amended by and appearing in St.1980, c. 580, §§ 6 and 7 respectively), as is compulsory, binding arbitration of disputes involving a municipality and a collective-bargaining representative of its police or firefighters (see St.1980, c. 580, § 10). There are extensive provisions concerned with preventing the involuntary imposition on cities and towns of certain direct service or cost obligations resulting from statutes and administrative rules or regulations. See G. L. c. 29, § 27C, inserted by St.1980, c. 580, § 2; G. L. c. 11, §§ 6 and 7, as appearing in and inserted by St.1980, c. 580, §§ 3 and 4, respectively. There is also a limitation on counties' and other government entities' charges to cities and towns. See G. L. c. 59, § 20A, inserted by St.1980, c. 580, § 12. Finally, Proposition 2 1/2 authorizes cities and towns in certain circumstances to revoke their acceptance of certain provisions of the

Page 475

General Laws. See G. L. c. 4, § 4B, inserted by St.1980, c. 580, § 5.

The Initiative Process

We summarize, in a general way, those provisions of art. 48 that are of significance in considering the various challenges of the plaintiffs.

Article 48 requires that an initiative measure contain only subjects "which are related or which are mutually dependent." [384 Mass. 217] Art. 48, The Initiative, II, § 3. The plaintiffs argue that the various provisions of Proposition 2 1/2 are not related or mutually dependent and that consequently Proposition 2 1/2 is invalid because it was enacted in violation of an express prohibition of art. 48.

Certain subjects are expressly excluded from the initiative process. Art. 48, The Initiative, II, § 2. No initiative measure may be proposed "the...

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76 practice notes
  • Jenkins v. Chief Justice of Dist. Court Dept.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • September 13, 1993
    ...to advance the questions of law reported by the single justice. See Massachusetts Teachers Ass'n v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, 384 Mass. 209, 214, 424 N.E.2d 469 (1981), citing Save the Bay, Inc. v. Department of Pub. Utils., 366 Mass. 667, 674-675, 322 N.E.2d 742 (1975) (where at least......
  • Carney v. Attorney General, SJC-10158.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • July 15, 2008
    ...not require that a proposed statute have uniform, Statewide application." Massachusetts Teachers Ass'n v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, 384 Mass. 209, 224, 424 N.E.2d 469 (1981) (rejecting local matters challenge to Proposition 2½). Rather, the purpose of the limitation is "to exclude from......
  • Anderson v. Attorney Gen., SJC–12422
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • June 18, 2018
    ...Id. at 561, 34 N.E.2d 431.Forty years later, we relied on that test in Massachusetts Teachers Ass'n v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, 384 Mass. 209, 221, 424 N.E.2d 469 (1981), quoting Opinion of the Justices, 309 Mass. at 561, 34 N.E.2d 431, in discussing the related subjects requirement o......
  • McDuffy v. Secretary of Executive Office of Educ.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • June 15, 1993
    ...cash valuation of the real and personal property in such city or town. Massachusetts Teachers Ass'n v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, 384 Mass. 209, 215, 424 N.E.2d 469 (1981). While the local appropriating authority may seek voter approval to appropriate specified amounts above the two and......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
76 cases
  • Jenkins v. Chief Justice of Dist. Court Dept.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • September 13, 1993
    ...to advance the questions of law reported by the single justice. See Massachusetts Teachers Ass'n v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, 384 Mass. 209, 214, 424 N.E.2d 469 (1981), citing Save the Bay, Inc. v. Department of Pub. Utils., 366 Mass. 667, 674-675, 322 N.E.2d 742 (1975) (where at least......
  • Carney v. Attorney General, SJC-10158.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • July 15, 2008
    ...not require that a proposed statute have uniform, Statewide application." Massachusetts Teachers Ass'n v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, 384 Mass. 209, 224, 424 N.E.2d 469 (1981) (rejecting local matters challenge to Proposition 2½). Rather, the purpose of the limitation is "to exclude from......
  • Anderson v. Attorney Gen., SJC–12422
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • June 18, 2018
    ...Id. at 561, 34 N.E.2d 431.Forty years later, we relied on that test in Massachusetts Teachers Ass'n v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, 384 Mass. 209, 221, 424 N.E.2d 469 (1981), quoting Opinion of the Justices, 309 Mass. at 561, 34 N.E.2d 431, in discussing the related subjects requirement o......
  • McDuffy v. Secretary of Executive Office of Educ.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • June 15, 1993
    ...cash valuation of the real and personal property in such city or town. Massachusetts Teachers Ass'n v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, 384 Mass. 209, 215, 424 N.E.2d 469 (1981). While the local appropriating authority may seek voter approval to appropriate specified amounts above the two and......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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