Statement on Attorney General’s Certification of Rent Control Ballot Question

The Fiscal Alliance Foundation issued the following statement regarding the Attorney General’s certification of a ballot question seeking to reimpose government-imposed rent control measures in Massachusetts.

“The government-imposed rent control ballot question proposed by state Rep. Mike Connolly is poorly written and would make even poorer policy. Economically, it has been proven time and time again that rent control does not work, and this ballot question would prove a disaster for both renters and property owners,” stated Paul Diego Craney, a spokesman for the Fiscal Alliance Foundation.

The proposed ballot question seeks to overturn the will of the voters, who in 1994 voted to outlaw government-imposed rent control. In addition to imposing rent control, Rep. Connolly’s ballot question also includes other policies, such as allowing cities and towns to pass new rules regulating evictions and brokerage fees.

The ballot question certification process is closely regulated by Amendment Article 48 of the Massachusetts Constitution.  As part of that certification process, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) reviews legal arguments filed in support of and in opposition to potential ballot questions.  The Fiscal Alliance Foundation has submitted comments in opposition to Rep. Connolly’s ballot question, arguing it should be disqualified based on constitutional grounds. Those comments may be found by clicking here.

The Fiscal Alliance Foundation’s written comments argue that Rep. Connolly’s proposed ballot question could not be certified as a matter of law because it violates two different constitutional requirements of Article 48: the “excluded matters” clause which prohibits ballot questions that create takings of property without just compensation, and the “related subjects” requirement which prohibits multiple unrelated policy proposals from appearing in the same ballot question.

“The Attorney General is absolutely wrong on this matter and we fully intend to work with a coalition to take this issue to the State Supreme Judicial Court. The written testimony we submitted to her office explains in detail why Rep. Connolly’s ballot question would harm some taxpayers by essentially taking their property without just compensation, an excluded matter. Our comments also explain that the ballot question violates the related subject’s requirement by mixing the issues of rent control and eviction, which are two completely separate policy issues. Massachusetts voters deserve to have their case heard in a less overtly political forum and the Supreme Judicial Court has a long history of removing petitions from the ballot due to incorrect and politicized decisions from the Attorney General’s office. We are confident the citizens of Massachusetts will be able to find a more impartial audience there,” concluded Craney.

Any legal challenges brought to the state Supreme Judicial Court must happen after the proponents submit their certified signatures to the Secretary of State. Those certified signatures are due on December 6.