SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Yes on 17, Californians for Fair Auto Insurance Rates, a coalition of consumers, businesses, senior organizations, taxpayer advocates and insurers, filed a lawsuit today in Sacramento Superior Court to force Proposition 17 opponents to make changes to their ballot arguments and ballot rebuttals and correct the patently false and misleading statements contained therein.
Proposition 17 on the June 8, 2010, California statewide ballot simply makes an existing persistency or "continuous coverage" discount portable, allowing customers to take it with them if they change insurance companies. Prop. 17 will mean more competition and choice in the auto insurance marketplace and will result in lower rates for drivers.
Prop 17 does not create a new discount. Thus any reductions in premiums or increases for those who are uninsured and do not maintain coverage are the result of current auto insurance regulations, not Prop 17.
Despite this, opponents of Prop 17 are intentionally misleading voters by repeatedly stating Proposition 17 creates new penalties. Statements to this effect appear throughout opponents' ballot arguments and rebuttals and are false and misleading. The "parade of horribles" cited in No on 17's ballot arguments are, in fact, already happening today, and exist under current regulations.
Ballot arguments and rebuttals appear in the Official Voter Information Guide compiled by the California Secretary of State and are distributed to every voter in California. Election law (Elec. Code Section 9092, Gov. Code Section 88006) states that information in the voter guide must not contain "false and misleading" statements.
Opponents' ballot arguments and ballot rebuttals are available on the Secretary of State's website at www.sos.ca.gov.
"Proposition 17 simply allows responsible drivers who already qualify for a continuous coverage discount to take that discount with them if they change insurance companies. It does not create a new discount," said Kirk West, former president of the California Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of Californians for Fair Insurance rates (Cal-FAIR).
West continued: "Throughout this campaign, opponents have misled and attempted to confuse voters. Their ballot arguments and rebuttals are more of the same statements. As authors of Proposition 103, they understand that the so-called "penalties" they speak of are attributable to current law and not to Prop. 17. Yet they are hiding behind false and misleading statements because they are afraid to acknowledge taking an anti-consumer position on Prop. 17 by opposing a measure that will result in more competition and more choice for more than 80% of California drivers who would benefit under Prop. 17."
Today, more than 80% of drivers maintain auto insurance and qualify for the persistency or continuous coverage discount, but can only get that discount from their current insurer. Thus, if a driver wants to switch to a new insurance company, he or she loses the discount and has to pay more.
Opponents' primary allegation against Prop. 17, made in a variety of ways in the ballot arguments and rebuttals, is that if Prop. 17 is passed and the continuous coverage discount is made portable, drivers seeking insurance who do not continuously maintain insurance coverage will pay more.
In fact, because the persistency or continuous coverage discount is being offered today, drivers who do not maintain continuous insurance coverage are today paying more to offset price reductions for those who do get the discount.
In other words, any reductions in premiums for drivers who qualify for the persistency discount, or the increase in premium for those who do not maintain continuous coverage, are products of existing regulations – not Proposition 17.
Moreover, Proposition 17 adds new provisions to existing law that require insurers to offer the persistency discount even after lapses of coverage for up to 90 days for any reason other than nonpayment and for military service overseas; and Proposition 17 expressly does not limit an insurer's ability to offer additional grace periods for lapses. Current law offers none of these protections. As a result, repeated statements in the ballot arguments by opponents that Proposition 17 will increase rates for motorists are false and misleading. Any such increases are the result of existing law, not Proposition 17.
March 15, 2010, is the statutory deadline by which all June 2010 ballot argument challenges must be resolved. Prior to the deadline, Yes on 17 and No on 17 will meet in Sacramento Superior Court for oral argument in front of the judge assigned to this case. Since the suit was filed today no court date or judge has been assigned. There will be no ruling prior to oral argument. In past cases, the presiding judge has ruled from the bench immediately after oral arguments.
Background on ballot arguments and rebuttals in California
In ballot proposition campaigns in California, both the Yes side and No campaigns submit ballot arguments and ballot rebuttals for publication in the Official Voter Information Guide prepared by the California Secretary of State's Office.
Ballot arguments are submitted first. The Secretary of State then exchanges the arguments so each side can prepare a rebuttal to the main arguments for and against the proposition.
Rebuttals are in turn submitted, and then made available for public review along with the rest of the Official Voter Information Guide.
Proponents and opponents review ballot arguments and rebuttals and decide if they meet the California standard. If they do not meet the standard and contain false and misleading statements, lawsuits are permitted to ensure voters are not misled.
Ballot argument/rebuttal submission and litigation takes place months in advance of Election Day to allow time for potential litigation, printing and mailing the Voter Guide.
SOURCE Californians for Fair Auto Insurance Rates