Calif. Prop. 33 Language Stands

By Don Jergler | August 13, 2012

The language for an automobile persistency initiative will stand after the California Third District Court of Appeal on Monday denied an appeal filed by the backers of the Proposition 33 campaign seeking to strike part of the ballot language, including the label and title and summary.

The label and summary were prepared by California’s Attorney General, and opposing langue was drafted by Santa Monica, Calif.-based Consumer Watchdog.

“The decision was the campaign’s second failure in two days to convince a court to hide facts about Prop 33 from the Official Ballot Pamphlet sent to all California voters,” according to Consumer Watchdog, which has vehemently opposed the proposition, as well as the similar Prop. 17 on the 2010 ballot.

Prop 33’s proponents appealed a decision on Thursday by a Superior Court judge denying the campaign’s effort to edit the language of the Attorney General’s ballot label and title and summary, which read:

“Changes current law to allow insurance companies to set prices based on whether the driver previously carried auto insurance with any insurance company.”

Prop. 33 backers opposed the language because according to them it conveys the idea that the measure would allow insurers to set prices, something that is prohibited by California law

The judge last week also rejected the attempt to strike portions of Consumer Watchdog’s analysis of the initiative in the ballot pamphlet, including statements that Prop 33 would “deregulate the insurance industry.”

While Prop. 33 proponents did not appeal that decision, they say the language paints an inaccurate picture of what their proposition would do.

“Deregulation is surely meant to inflame and worry the voters,” said Prop. 33 campaign spokesman Terry McHale.

But in court Consumer Watchdog successfully argued that “deregulation” is an “elastic concept,” McHale said.

What both the ballot summary and the opposing language fail to convey is that Prop. 33 will allow motorists to take the loyalty discount they now get and shop that around to other insurers, he said.

“What Prop. 33 say is the insurance company should not control that discount,” McHale said. “You should control it.”

But Consumer Watchdog argues that Prop. 33 will allow insurance companies to raise rates on Californians with good driving records who have a lapse in insurance coverage for reasons like going back to school, a serious illness, long-term unemployment or using public transit.

Not so said McHale.

“For those 85 percent who have insurance, you obviously have greater options,” he said. “You can stay with your insurance and negotiate with them for a better deal or you can take your discount and negotiate with them for a better deal.”

He added: “If you stop driving for any reason, under the present system you immediately lose the discount you have. Under Prop. 33, you can miss a payment for 90 days for any reason. You keep your discount for 18 months if you are furloughed or laid off. If you’re active military you keep it.”

Prop. 33 is backed personally Mercury Chairman George Joseph, but not y Mercury, which sponsored a Prop. 17.

“Joseph and his company Mercury Insurance have waged a decades-long war in the legislature and the courts against the consumer and civil rights protections enacted by voters in Proposition 103,” Consumer Watchdog said in a statement.

Despite the defeat in court, McHale said backers still believe Prop. 33 can win, and they plan to campaign toward the goal of letting voters know what the initiative will do.

“We’re certainly going to educate the voters,” he said. “We certainly intend to hold Consumer Watchdog to the facts.”

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