50 Shades of Nay: The Complexity of California’s Propositions

Clayton Stehr, Staff Writer

The relentless commercials are inescapable. The rambling of lawyers, teachers, and politicians dominate television advertisements with close-ups of their faces, as they go on and on about some proposition that if citizens vote “no” on will suddenly save the state from a casino infestation. It’s hard for one to keep track of whether or not it’s beneficial for the people of the state to vote yes for Proposition 2 or no for Proposition 48, or whether Proposition 1 will save or ruin the state’s water supply. What did some of these propositions even do anyways?

On the surface, many of these propositions seem to have an obvious, one-sided answer, but after digging deeper into many of these one finds how there are numerous pros and cons to every single one.

Around 60 percent of California voters voted to pass Proposition 47, seeing how hundreds of millions of dollars will be saved by changing lower level nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. This money will fund schools, crime victims, mental health and drug treatment, making it supported by many teachers unions of California.

However, there is always another side to the coin. A closer look reveals how this proposition could end up releasing around 10,000 felons from prison, while reducing the penalty for stealing guns and possessing date-rape drugs. Spend money on crime prevention, or make sure criminals of all kind stay in jail? Choosing the former is a choice many Californians made, having to make concessions in order to pass what they think is most important

When dissecting many of these propositions, it becomes blurry as to which one is actually going to do more good for the state than harm. The attractive part of Proposition 46 is that the penalty for medical malpractice would’ve been raised, while requiring certain physicians and doctors to be tested for drugs and alcohol, making sure “negligent doctors are responsible.” One of the first things it says on the California General Election website is how it is supported by a man named Bob Pack, whose kids were killed by a drugged driver who was prescribed narcotics recklessly.

This sounds like a no-brainer right? As in the case of all these propositions, there’s another side of the story. This act was written by trial lawyers, who would benefit immensely from the passing of the law and could cause doctors to leave the state because of the stringent liability. But then again, doesn’t it hold more doctors responsible for malpractice? Many voters had to answer that difficult question, proving that there are good and bad sides to every proposition proposed.

Looking at who benefits the most from these bills is critical in seeing whether or not they’re beneficial or harmful. Special interest groups and lawyers usually are the authors of many of these bills, suggesting that they’re more concerned with furthering their own pocketbooks then benefitting the people. In the case of Proposition 46, trial lawyers wrote and paid for the bill to be proposed themselves, as no medical professionals were involved in the writing of the bill.

Those seemingly pointless, annoying advertisements actually mean something for everyone, affecting the way the entire state is run, from healthcare to water control, and justice to the budget, these prove to be just as important as the representatives we choose to enforce them.