July 31--THERE THEY GO AGAIN -- one of California's leading insurance executives and the state's most vocal consumer advocate, waging war at the ballot box over auto premiums.
And just like they've done in the past, they aren't waiting for the election campaign to start fighting.
Months before the election, supporters of Proposition 33 have sued state officials and consumer advocate Harvey Rosenfield over language contained in the ballot summary and voter information pamphlets.
The lawsuit, filed in Sacramento Superior Court, says the ballot summary prepared by the state contains "inaccurate language that is highly likely to prejudice voters against the measure." The suit also takes aim at opposing arguments Rosenfield is having published in the voter pamphlets.
Proposition 33, championed by Mercury Insurance Group Chairman George Joseph, would give insurers more flexibility to offer discounts to lure coveted drivers who are customers of other carriers. Those are drivers who have maintained continuous coverage over the years.
Rosenfield -- author of Proposition 103, the 1988 law that regulates auto premiums -- argues that Joseph's plan would punish one particular class of drivers: those who weren't previously insured or who let coverage lapse.
Their rates would shoot up to pay for the more generous discounts granted to the favored motorists, said Rosenfield, founder of Santa Monica advocacy group Consumer Watchdog.
If this sounds familiar, it's because it is. In 2010, Joseph and Mercury spent $16 million pushing the same issue as Proposition 17, and lost. Joseph and Rosenfield fought in court over ballot and pamphlet language back then as well, with Rosenfield having to tweak his language a little.
Joseph's plan for auto discounts has been reworked somewhat, providing some exemptions for those who've let their coverage lapse temporarily. It is set for the November ballot as Proposition 33.
In the lawsuit, Joseph's allies take aim at some of the voter-pamphlet wording supplied by Consumer Watchdog. That includes a line that says Proposition 33 "unfairly punishes anyone who stopped driving for a good reason but now needs insurance to get back behind the wheel."
Consumer Watchdog called the suit an attempt to stifle the opposition.
"This is standard operating procedure for these guys," said Doug Heller, the group's executive director.
Call The Bee'sDale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.
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