Measure would most likely raise rates on auto insurance for everyone
A red flag should go up when one person, group or company is the sole sponsor and sole underwriter of a ballot measure.
That's what we've got with Proposition 33, a measure on the Nov. 6 ballot that we urge voters to reject.
Proposition 33 is backed by Mercury General Corp. Chairman George Joseph, who has contributed 99.5 percent of the $16.2 million raised by the measure's official sponsor, the American Agents Alliance.
Knowing that, the logical question is why? What's in it for Joseph and the big insurance company he heads?
The short answer is money.
Backers of Proposition 33 – and we have to assume there are some even if Joseph is the only one putting any real money into the effort – bill it as the "2012 Auto Insurance Discount Act."
Don't be fooled. This is just a retread of a similar measure rejected by California voters two years ago. In fact, Proposition 33 is but the latest version of Joseph's battle with Harvey Rosenfield, author of the 1988 auto insurance initiative law, Proposition 103.
Over the years, Joseph and Rosenfield have clashed repeatedly before the state Insurance Department, the Legislature, the courts and on the ballot.
Although largely unsuccessful, Joseph's efforts aim to use financial incentives to push consumers toward Mercury General, the state's fourth-largest private auto insurance company with about 8 percent of the California market.
And that's what's in it for Joseph. There's nothing in it for consumers.
The claim is with Proposition 33, drivers can get the equivalent of their existing "loyalty" discounts for renewing policies even if they switch insurance companies. The reality is it will ding new motorists, young drivers and people who let their insurance lapse.
The "loyalty discount" Proposition 33 claims to protect is not given as an incentive to obey the law; it's a marketing tool insurers give because it's cheaper to keep a customer than get a new customer.
In fact, to give the discount promised by Proposition 33 to some customers, companies would have to increase rates for other drivers. That likely will keep more drivers from buying any insurance. And guess who then pays? You do, through higher rates.
We urge a No vote on Proposition 33.