Proponents of a ballot question involving gig economy workers face an uncertain political path foward after the state's highest court struck down the measure.

The ballot question would have let Massachusetts voters decide whether to classify rideshare and food-delivery drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, while also shielding companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash from liability following accidents. On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court tossed out the ballot question in a unanimous ruling, saying it combined two distinct policy issues. The Massachusetts Constitution requires ballot questions initiated by citizen petition to only address topics that are inextricably linked.

Rideshare and delivery companies were behind the proposed measure, which would have essentially enshrined those companies' current relationship with drivers in state law. Following the ruling, the group Flexibility & Benefits for Massachusetts Drivers — which was funded by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart — issued a statement, saying: “A clear majority of Massachusetts voters and rideshare and delivery drivers both supported and would have passed this ballot question into law. … The future of these services and the drivers who earn on them is now in jeopardy, and we hope the legislature will [respond].”

Supporters of the now-disqualified ballot question are shifting their focus to state lawmakers, who are considering a bill that would make some of the same changes. Among other things, H.1234 it would classify rideshare drivers as independent contractors, create a new benefits framework for them, and require that companies they work for provide certain types of insurance.

Convincing the Democrat-dominated Massachusetts Legislature to support those measures may be difficult, however.

Many of the party’s biggest names spoke out against Flexibility & Benefits for Massachusetts Drivers when it tried to attend the Massachusetts Democratic Party convention in Worcester. Gubernatorial candidates Maura Healey and Sonia Chang-Díaz, as well as every candidate then running for lieutenant governor, attorney general and auditor expressed opposition. The group ultimately chose not to attend.

On Tuesday, Massachusetts Democratic Party Chair Gus Bickford sent out a statement praising the SJC ruling.

“I’m proud Massachusetts Democrats mobilized together, built our opposition to this ballot question into our Party platform and proved we can take on even the most well-funded companies to ensure people are prioritized over profits,” he wrote.

Neither House Speaker Ron Mariano nor Senate President Karen Spilka immediately responded to an inquiry about H.1234’s prospects.

Tuesday’s ruling was a mixed bag for Attorney General Maura Healey, widely regarded as the frontrunner in the 2022 race for governor.

As attorney general, Healey allowed the ballot question to proceed — a decision that Chief Justice Scott Kafker said was made "in error." He suggested in a closing footnote that Healey’s summary of the question was inadequate.

On the other hand, Healey is suing Uber and Lyft to force them to classify their drivers as employees. Tuesday’s decision may end up refocusing attention on that case, which is still unfolding in Suffolk Superior Court, and was seen as a catalyst for the ballot question just struck down.

In a statement, Healey said she respected the SJC’s decision. She added: “I will continue our efforts to force Uber and Lyft to comply with Massachusetts employment law and to ensure rideshare drivers have the same rights as all other employees.”

While the now-defunct ballot measure was publicly backed by some drivers, who said the status quo offers them much-needed flexibility, other drivers opposed the question because they want to be classified as employees of the rideshare and delivery services.

After Tuesday’s ruling, drivers from the latter group and other activists gathered at Uber’s Saugus headquarters to urge the company not to end fuel surcharges that help them defray the high cost of gas. The protest was organized by Massachusetts Is Not For Sale, the group that opposed the now-defunct ballot question.

In a statement, Uber said it will end fuel surcharges for Uber Eats on Wednesday, but plans to keep the additional charge for its rideshares as the company evaluates "alternative options.” The company announced the surcharge in March. Customers have been paying either $0.45 or $0.55 on each Uber trip and either $0.35 or $0.45 on each Uber Eats order, depending on their location. Drivers at Tuesday's event called on the company not only to increase the surcharge, but to apply it on a per-mile basis, rather than a per-trip basis.

"This 35-cent gas subsidy is insulting," Uber driver Kevin Murphy said at the protest outside Uber's Saugus office. "Unfortunately, with our operating costs going up across the board, it's also important."

Drivers at the event said the Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling on the ballot questions was both cause for celebration and a call to further action.

“It’s fantastic news,” said driver Henry De Groot. “I wasn’t holding my breath for the courts. We don’t trust the courts; we rely on worker power. But this is huge news.”

Even so, De Groot said, “[It’s] not enough. We want a living wage. We want a path to unionization.”

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.