Foes Win Ruling Over Prop. 33 Ballot Words

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Opponents of Proposition 33, which would rewrite California law on auto insurance rates, won a preliminary court skirmish Thursday over ballot language.

A Sacramento judge refused to tinker with ballot language filed by state officials and voter-pamphlet arguments submitted by the proposition's opponents, advocacy group Consumer Watchdog.

The proposition's supporters had sued to remove language they said would "prejudice voters" against the proposal.

Proposition 33, backed by insurance executive George Joseph, would give carriers more leeway to give discounts to drivers who have maintained years of nonstop coverage, as a way of luring them from other insurers.

Critics say it would mean big rate hikes for drivers who weren't previously insured or who let coverage lapse.

Consumer Watchdog contends the proposition "unfairly punishes anyone who stopped driving for a good reason."

Terry McHale, spokesman for Yes on 33, said the group still thinks it can win in November "on the merits."

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