Christopher R. Anderson, president of the influential Massachusetts High Technology Council, looks while in transit or at his desk.
Timothy C. Foley, a top official with the powerful Service Employees International Union, usually finds out via a text message on his iPhone.
Boston-based pollster Steve Koczela fires up his Twitter app.
It has become a required ritual in Massachusetts business and political circles, among legislators and lobbyists, activists and analysts: checking to see whether today is the day when the Supreme Judicial Court announces if a tax on incomes exceeding $1 million will make the November ballot.
“There’s just so much that hangs on it,” Koczela said.
If it goes to voters and passes — which public polls have found likely — the new levy on high-earners would bring in an estimated $2 billion in additional revenue starting next year, money meant for improving transportation and education in the state.
Progressive activists and unions say those investments are essential to move Massachusetts forward. But business groups say the plan will prompt an exodus of job creators and dilute the state’s high-octane economy.
If those stakes aren’t already big enough, the court’s decision on whether to let the ballot question move forward on constitutional grounds will also have a significant impact on three other potential ballot measures: raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour; mandating paid family and medical leave; and slicing the sales tax from 6.25 to 5 percent.
All are part of a so-called grand bargain negotiation between business groups and advocates, and the high court’s decision could help determine whether lawmakers can strike a compromise on ballot issues, or whether the questions will move straight to voters in November.
The decision on the millionaires ballot question is expected any day now.
Most Supreme Judicial Court opinions are released within 130 days of oral arguments, although this is not a hard-and-fast rule. (Friday marks 129 days since the court heard the case.)
There are also real deadlines approaching.
A spokeswoman for Secretary of State William F. Galvin said the office has previously made the court aware that it would need to know about the ballot questions by July 1 in order to get the Information for Voters books printed.
“However, due to a newsprint shortage, it is possible that we will request an earlier decision in order to have the books printed in time to meet our constitutionally required duty,” said spokeswoman Debra O’Malley.
With the decision looming, Anderson, who is the lead plaintiff in the suit asking the high court to keep the question from appearing on the ballot, wades into the Twitter feed from the office of the Reporter of Decisions of the Supreme Judicial Court each morning when it posts what decisions, if any, will be released that day.
“Wherever I am, I’ll check in,” Anderson said. “I have learned that the @MassReports Twitter is 100 percent effective at 8 o’clock . . . or 8:01 am.”
And Foley, the union official with 1199SEIU, will often get a text from his colleagues letting him know that today is not the day. “There’s a huge amount that’s interrelated with this decision,” he said. “It’s extremely high-stakes.”
Anderson’s organization and other business groups argued before the Supreme Judicial Court in February that the question’s wording is unconstitutional. One reason, they alleged: because it places disparate items together into one question, a practice meant to appeal to voters.
But the question’s advocates
The date of the decision’s release and its content are closely held. But that hasn’t stopped a rash of tea leaf reading.
The scuttlebutt from some: The long lag time between oral arguments and the opinion’s release means the decision is being carefully crafted to declare the ballot question unconstitutional. The rumor from others: The long lag time means the decision is being carefully crafted to give it a green light to appear on the ballot.
Word that Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants was out of the country rippled through several political circles this week. Perhaps that meant it wouldn’t be released until he returned, one line of thinking went. Not necessarily so, said Jennifer Donahue, top spokeswoman for the SJC. The decision could come any weekday, she said.
When the day does eventually come, the @MassReports Twitter account will announce at 8 a.m. that the decision on Anderson v. Healey, SJC-12422, is forthcoming. Then, at 10 a.m., the actual ruling will be posted online. But until then, a lot of people will start checking when 7:59 a.m. rolls around each weekday.
Earlier this week, Koczela retweeted an announcement there’d be no decision from the SJC. And he added his own commentary: “Checks phone. Sets phone down. Jumps out window.”Joshua Miller can be reached at email@example.com.