Backers of Auto-Insurance Measure Sue Over Ballot Pamphlet Language

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Backers of a ballot measure to change California’s auto-insurance
rules filed a lawsuit Thursday arguing that their opponents lied in
their ballot-pamphlet arguments.

Proposition 17’s supporters contend that the measure would simply
make “continuous coverage discounts” portable so motorists can change
insurers without losing their accrued time.

Opponents say it would let insurers penalize people who have missed
just one payment, or who weren’t driving for a while and let their
insurance lapse during that time.

Californians for Fair Auto Insurance Rates, or Cal-FAIR, filed the
lawsuit in Sacramento County Superior Court against Secretary of State
Debra Bowen and names six people as parties: the state printer who
publishes ballot pamphlets sent to California voters; three consumer
advocates who co-authored the pamphlet argument against Prop. 17; and
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and former state Attorney General
John Van de Kamp, co-authors of the pamphlet rebuttal to arguments for
the measure.

According to the suit, the opponents are intentionally misleading voters by claiming the measure creates new penalties.

“Proposition 17 simply allows responsible drivers who already
qualify for a continuous coverage discount to take that discount with
them if they change insurance companies,” said Cal-FAIR co-chairman
Kirk West, a former California Chamber of Commerce president.

“Throughout this campaign, opponents have misled and attempted to
confuse voters. Their ballot arguments and rebuttals are more of the
same statements.

“(T)hey understand that the so-called ‘penalties’ they speak of are
attributable to current law and not to Prop. 17,” he continued.

“Yet they are hiding behind false and misleading statements because
they are afraid to acknowledge taking an anti-consumer position on
Prop. 17 by opposing a measure that will result in more competition and
more choice for more than 80 percent of California drivers.”

More than $3.51 million of Cal-FAIR’s $3.58 million campaign war
chest came from insurance giant Mercury General Corp. Consumer Watchdog
founder Harvey Rosenfield, one of the ballot-pamphlet argument
co-authors named in the suit, said he looks forward to seeing Mercury
in court.

“For months, Mercury has been lying to the public, to state
officials and to the news media about its June ballot initiative,” he
said. “Indeed, for more than 10 years, the Department of Insurance and
the courts have repeatedly concluded that Mercury’s proposal would
create a new rating factor — the consideration of prior insurance
history — that is currently illegal.”

“The fact is that today, under current law, if you stop driving you
won’t pay more when you restart your insurance coverage,” Rosenfield
continued. “If Mercury’s Prop. 17 passes, insurance companies will be
allowed to charge a lot more to good drivers who didn’t need insurance
when they weren’t driving, or who missed a single payment, or who chose
to fore-go coverage because of the economy or illness.”

Cal-FAIR also plans to challenge the new title and summary that
state Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office prepared for the measure,
which says it would let insurers raise rates.

A Cal-FAIR spokeswoman said that because an outdated title and
summary appear in documents on the Secretary of State’s Web site,
Brown’s office must go to court to insert the new language; Cal-FAIR
will intervene in that process.

Read the Political Blotter at:

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