Los Angeles auto insurance executive puts $8 million into initiative campaign
Los Angeles insurance executive George Joseph has raised the stakes in his years-long effort to change California's landmark automobile insurance law, known as Proposition 103.
On Friday, Joseph personally contributed $8.1 million to an initiative campaign called the 2012 Auto Insurance Discount Act, which is gathering signatures from registered voters in hopes of appearing on the June ballot. Earlier in the month, the secretary of state's office reported that Joseph gave an initial $150,000 to the committee, sponsored by the trade group American Agents Alliance in Sacramento.
The initiative, if it makes it to the ballot and is approved by voters, would change Proposition 103 to allow insurers to offer customers discounts if they can prove they were continously covered by any licensed insurance company for the last five years. A break in coverage of 90 days for whatever reason would not make the motorist ineligible for the discount. Neither would unemployment for periods of up to 18 months nor active military service.
Joseph has been seeking such a change in the state's insurance law in the Legislature, the courts and on the ballot for more than a decade. In 2010, Mercury spent $16 million on an unsuccessful initiative, Proposition 17, to offer so-called loyalty discounts.
Joseph and proponents of the initiative argue that the discount is meant to encourage responsible behavior by insured drivers.
Opponents, led by Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica activist group whose founder, Harvey Rosenfeld wrote Proposition 103, contend that Joseph's proposed initiative unfairly would rewrite the 1988 initiative to allow insurers to discriminate against drivers who are buying insurance after failing to have coverage during the previous five years.
"The measure would repeal Proposition 103's prohibition on insurance companies from considering a driver's coverage history when a motorist applies for insurance," Consumer Watchdog said in a statement Monday.
Joseph did not respond to requests for comment.
-- Marc Lifsher
Photo: Mercury General Corp. Chairman George Joseph in his Los Angeles office. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times.