Ballot Pamphlet Challenged In Court By Backers Of Insurance Measure

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Months before voters will have their say, a court fight has blown up over the ballot pamphlet governing Proposition 33, an initiative that would rewrite some of the rules governing auto insurance in California.

Proponents of the initiative, which is backed by chairman George Joseph of Mercury Insurance Group of Los Angeles, filed suit Friday in Sacramento Superior Court, trying to get the voter information pamphlet rewritten.

The pamphlet, approved by Attorney General Kamala Harris, is riddled with "inaccurate language that is highly likely to prejudice voters against the measure," the lawsuit says. The suit was filed by Michael D'Arelli of the Alliance of Insurance Agents & Brokers, a trade group that supports Proposition 33.

Mercury contends Proposition 33 would increase competition and lower premiums by giving insurers more leeway to offer "good driver" discounts. But opponents, led by the Santa Monica advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, say it would lead to higher premiums for a particular group of drivers – those who haven't been
previously insured or had let their coverage lapse.

If this sounds familiar, it's because it is. California voters rejected a similar measure sponsored by Mercury two years ago. And that vote was preceded by a court fight in Sacramento over the voter pamphlets.. That earlier court fight ended with Consumer Watchdog having to tweak some of the language it had written for the pamphlet.

"They just do this – this is standard operating procedure for these guys," said Doug Heller of Consumer Watchdog, responding to the new lawsuit.


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