Prop. 33 Fight Over Auto Insurance Pricing Ends In Defeat

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SACRAMENTO — A Los Angeles insurance executive's drive to boost his company's fortunes by seeking authority to offer a new auto coverage discount got trounced by voters.

Proposition 33, bankrolled by Mercury General Corp. Chairman George Joseph, lost with 45.4% of the vote to opposition of 54.6% with all California precincts reporting.

The measure would have allowed insurers such as Mercury to give low-risk drivers a new discount when they switch companies.

Opponents, led by Consumer Watchdog, the Santa Monica activists who passed the landmark Proposition 103 auto insurance reform initiative a quarter century ago, denounced Proposition 33 as a cynical maneuver by billionaire Joseph to mainly help one firm.

The organization argued the measure could unfairly raise rates for newly insured drivers and people who had been previously uninsured for a variety of reasons, such as not owning a car.

Joseph, 91, spent more than $16 million on the unsuccessful campaign.

A similar measure backed by Joseph was defeated by voters in 2010. It too was a close contest and the results closely resembled Tuesday's vote. The 2010 initiative lost 48% to 52%.

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