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No on Prop 33

San Francisco Bay Guardian

[From "Endorsements 2012: State ballot measures"]




This measure was created and funded by Mercury Insurance founder George Joseph, who tried to do the same thing two years ago with Prop. 17, which was soundly rejected by voters (see "Buying power," 3/16/10). So this time around, he created a few narrow exemptions meant to defuse the criticism from that campaign, bought support from an influential nonprofit (see "The latest insurance scam," 9/4/12)), and he's banking on the outcome being different this time.

But Prop. 33 does the same thing as Prop. 17: it allows insurance companies to give discounts to drivers who have maintained continuous insurance coverage and pay for those discounts by increasing insurance rates for everyone else. In an era of global warming and increasingly congested roadways, the measure would punish those who opt to give up their car for awhile and use public transit, bicycles, or walking. Recent immigrants, and those who spend some time abroad or who quit their job to start a small business, would pay higher rates when they return to driving.

Last time, the measure was defeated by arguments that it punished soldiers and the unemployed, so Joseph tried to defuse those arguments with exceptions for those on "active duty service" or for people who have been unemployed for up to 18 months, but only if it's the result of a "layoff or furlough." Consumer Watchdog — the group that created California's car insurance regulatory system with 1988's Prop. 103 and has been battling Joseph's various efforts to undermine it ever since — is strongly against the measure and dismissive of its narrow exemptions, citing studies showing rates will rise for those least able to afford it.

The bottom line is this is about Joseph's bottom line, and he isn't spending tens of millions of dollars in order to save you money.