“It’s Up to You” by Frances Talbott-White

Prop 17- Car Insurance on Your Ballot

When presenting ballot measures to a live audience, I generally try to move through some kind of logical progression, or at least go from proposition to proposition in a way that makes sense to me. I figure that if it makes sense to me, I’m more likely to help voters understand it. In this election season, I find myself moving from Prop 13 to Prop 17. We’ll come back to 16, 14, and 15 (in that zig-zag order).

Next to Prop 13, Prop 17 is the simplest on your June 8 ballot, and it’s similar to Prop 13 in that it deals with pocketbook issues. But whereas Prop 13 of 2010 will affect very few individual taxpayers, Prop 17 has the potential to affect everyone who buys car insurance in California. Most of us, in other words.

For background on Prop 17, let’s go back to November 1988. In that gubernatorial election season, FOUR of California’s statewide ballot measures sought to reform the insurance industry. Only Prop 103* passed (by a margin of just over 2%), establishing three criteria that auto insurance companies could use to set the price of your premium:

* safety record;
* number of miles driven per year, and;
* years of experience as a driver.

Proposition 17 would enable insurers to discount your premium based on a fourth criterion: the length of time you’ve continuously been insured for bodily injury liability. Moreover, you would be able to take your coverage history with you when changing insurers.

Mercury Insurance Company is the author and principal proponent of Prop 17, and it’s no secret that they’re seeking to make money as a result of the measure’s passage. The realities of the insurance industry, however, make it inevitable that other companies would have to raise premiums in order to cover claims. Evidently the balance between discounts and surcharges is what keeps the insurance industry on an even keel.

Is there a Culver City angle on Prop 17? Not exactly. But I will make two Culver-centric notes:

1. If you want to ‘follow the money’ in the Prop 17 campaign, you can do so at a glance via the California Voter Foundation (CVF), a program developed by eminent CCHS grad Kim Alexander. Click here to check out a chart showing Mercury Insurance’s depth of commitment ($7,263,622) vis-à-vis that of the opponents’ combined contributions ($240,986).
2. A historical aside re Prop 103 of 1988. Before Prop 103 made it illegal to base auto insurance rates on the driver’s location, folks who lived in Culver City with a 90066 zip code had to move heaven and earth to get their insurers to understand the safety difference between being covered by CCPD/FD and being covered by LAPD/FD.

How should you vote on Prop 17? It’s Up to You! To inform yourself more fully, spend some quality time at the Prop 17 page of Smart Voter.

To “Follow the Money” on Prop 17: http://www.calvoter.org/voter/elections/2010/primary/props/prop17.html#who To: “Smart Voter’s coverage of Prop 17: http://smartvoter.org/2010/06/08/ca/state/prop/17/

Next, we’ll move on to another big-business-backed ballot measure, Proposition 16, and illustrate it with reference to Culver City’s recent history.
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*Read more about Prop 103 at Ballotpedia.

Frances Talbott-White has lived in Culver City since 1975. She holds various positions at state, county, and local levels of the League of Women Voters (LWV) but writes for Culver City Crossroads as an independent citizen. Nothing Frances says in this column should be construed as an official statement of LWV or a reflection of LWV policy. It’s just for us, as an example of how non-partisan politics works.

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