By Julie Lake
California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner has withdrawn support for a proposed ballot initiative that would have required state and local law enforcement officers to remove the license plates of, and eventually impound, vehicles lacking proof of insurance and current valid registration.
“Getting uninsured drivers off the road remains a priority for Commissioner Poizner,” said Brian Seitchik, a spokesman with Poizner’s campaign office. “He has worked to increase the state’s low cost auto program from 16 to all 58 counties in the last year and he will continue to pursue legislative solutions to reduce the number of uninsured motorists in the state.”
Commissioner Poizner’s reversal on the ballot initiative came after The Greenlining Institute, an advocacy group for low-income and minority residents, sent his office a letter criticizing the measure’s potential effects.
“Your initiative is likely to fail because it will ask voters to punish the working poor,” wrote Bob Gnaizda, Greenlining policy director, and Samuel Kang, legal counsel. “It also compels police officers to put their lives in jeopardy by making them get down on their hands and knees in front of vehicles to unscrew the license plates. And while California braces for a recession, your initiative burdens taxpayers to pay for it all – untold millions of extra dollars every year.”
In addition, the Greenlining Institute predicted that even if law enforcement officials, civil rights groups, minority voters, low income workers, immigrants and other groups did not defeat the measure at the ballot box, that the California Supreme Court would strike it down on the grounds that it violates basic due process rights.
As drafted, the “Uninsured Motorists Act of 2008” would have required owners of vehicles with removed plates to obtain insurance within seven days or have their vehicle be subject to impoundment. Commissioner Poizner launched the initiative campaign late last year, arguing that the law was needed to get the estimated quarter of California drivers lacking insurance to buy coverage.
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