California voters will be faced with several key ballot initiatives Nov. 4. California Catholic Conference has prepared this brief summary of the text and the arguments of the proponents and opponents of the propositions which will appear on the ballot for California’s ballot. Much more information and valuable links are available on


Supporters argue that Proposition 1 is fiscally responsible as it does not raise taxes and that it will help to grow California’s economy as it keeps farms and businesses productive and puts Californians to work building the new facilities needed to store, deliver, and treat water. In addition, proponents contend that Proposition 1 will safeguard California’s existing water supplies by cleaning up contaminated groundwater and expanding water recycling. Proposition 1 also invests in new water storage and protects California’s rivers, lakes, and streams from pollution and contamination.

Opponents assert that Proposition 1 does little for drought-relief in the near-term. It wrongly focuses on building more dams, which will increase pressure to over pump and divert more water from Northern California rivers. Moreover, opponents believe that private users who benefit from the water projects should fund these projects on their own, and not taxpayers’ money.

Reference from Catholic Teaching: 

485. By its very nature water cannot be treated as just another commodity among many, and it must be used rationally and in solidarity with others. The distribution of water is traditionally among the responsibilities that fall to public agencies, since water is considered a public good. If water distribution is entrusted to the private sector it should still be considered a public good. The right to water, as all human rights, finds its basis in human dignity and not in any kind of merely quantitative assessment that considers water as a merely economic good. Without water, life is threatened. Therefore, the right to safe drinking water is a universal and inalienable right. Ù

— Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.


Supporters assert that Proposition 2 establishes a strong rainy day fund that will force the Legislature and the Governor to save money during times of surplus in order to pay down debts, and protect schools from devastating cuts.

Opponents contend that Proposition 2 includes a dangerous financial time bomb that hurts schools. Once any money goes into Proposition 2’s “school rainy day fund,” they say, local school districts will only be allowed to save for at most a few weeks of expenses. In the past, local reserves have been used across California to protect children from state-inflicted borrowing cost and program cuts.

Reference from Catholic Teaching:

The “principle of subsidiarity” must be respected: “A community of a higher order should not interfere with the life of a community of a lower order, taking over its functions.” In case of need it should, rather, support the smaller community and help to coordinate its activity with activities in the rest of society for the sake of the common good.

— Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, #48 (1989)


Supporters state that Proposition 45 will require health insurance companies to open their books and publicly justify rate hikes before they can raise premiums for 5.8 million individual consumers and small business owners under penalty of perjury. Proposition 45, they say, protects patients from health insurance company excessive profits and will lower health insurance premiums.

Opponents contend that Proposition 45 gives one politician, the Insurance Commissioner, too much power and allows him or her to control what benefits and treatment options are offered. In addition, this measure creates a more duplicative, costly bureaucracy that will increase state administrative costs by tens of millions of dollars per year. Opponents also argue that Proposition 45 will undermine California’s new independent commission responsible for negotiating health plan rates.

Reference from Catholic Teaching:

Those responsible for business enterprises are responsible to society for the economic and ecological effects of their operations. They have an obligation to consider the good of persons and not only the increase of profits. Profits are necessary, however. They make possible the investments that ensure the future of a business and they guarantee employment.

— Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2432


Supporters assert that this measure holds doctors accountable when they commit negligence by adjusting the current $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages for inflation. Moreover, supporters contend that Proposition 46 will save lives by requiring doctors to check the prescription drug history database and performing alcohol and drug testing on physicians.

Opponents argue that Proposition 46 uses alcohol and drug testing of doctors to disguise its real intent — to increase the limit on the amount of medical malpractice lawsuit awards, which will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year and cause many doctors and other medical care professionals to quit their practice or move to places with lower medical malpractice insurance premiums.

Reference from Catholic Teaching:

418. The State must provide an adequate legal framework for social subjects to engage freely in their different activities and it must be ready to intervene, when necessary and with respect for the principle of subsidiarity, so that the interplay between free associations and democratic life may be directed to the common good. Civil society is in fact multifaceted and irregular; it does not lack its ambiguities and contradictions. It is also the arena where different interests clash with one another, with the risk that the stronger will prevail over the weaker.

— Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church


Supporters assert that Proposition 47 is sensible in that it prioritizes serious and violent crime and stops wasting prison space on petty crimes, which will result in saving hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds every year. This measure also dedicates the massive savings to assistance for victims of crime, and mental health treatment and drug treatment and crime prevention strategies in K-12 schools to stop the cycle of crime.

Opponents consist primarily of law enforcement professionals and their unions as well as crime victim groups who feel that the proposition does not allow enough input from victims and prosecutors and that it would release serious offenders into the general population.

Reference from Catholic Teaching:

We believe a Catholic vision of crime and criminal justice can offer some alternatives. It recognizes that root causes and personal choices can both be factors in crime by understanding the need for responsibility on the part of the offender and an opportunity for their rehabilitation. A Catholic approach leads us to encourage models of restorative justice that seek to address crime in terms of the harm done to victims and communities, not simply as a violation of law.

— “U.S. Bishops, Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration,” #38 (2000).

A Catholic approach does not give up on those who violate these laws. We believe that both victims and offenders are children of God. Despite their very different claims on society, their lives and dignity should be protected and respected. We seek justice, not vengeance. We believe punishment must have clear purposes: protecting society and rehabilitating those who violate the law.

— U.S. Bishops, “Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration,” #37 (2000)


Supporters state that Proposition 48 would help create over 4,000 jobs and provide crucial funding for public safety, schools, parks, roads, and other public services. This measure also promotes tribal self-sufficiency and will strengthen the State’s budget by providing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue sharing funds for non-gaming tribes. In addition, Proposition 48 would avoid potential development in environmentally sensitive regions.

Opponents argue that Proposition 48 allows tribes to “reservation shop” to build casinos rather than building on their original reservation land and will result in a new avalanche of off-reservation casino projects in California. Moreover, this measure will not create new jobs but will simply take resources and jobs from nearby casinos and businesses. Lastly, it will create more air pollution and traffic, decrease open space, and create a greater burden on an already limited water supply.

Reference from Catholic Teaching:

Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers ... become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others. The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2413 We must remember that, of its very nature, civil authority exists, not to confine its people within the boundaries of their nation, but rather to protect, above all else the common good of that particular civil society, which certainly cannot be divorced from the common good of the entire human family.

— “Peace on Earth,” #98