Why Would Anyone Oppose Prop 17? Here’s Why.


I'm so glad people are out there trying to save me money.  I mean California is expensive enough, so it's nice when someone is actually fighting to help me keep a few bucks. This is especially gratifying when an insurance company is willing to go to the mat, and the voters, so we can pay cheaper premiums. What a swell bunch of folks.

(Here is where we need to develop a whole set of punctuation for sarcasm, just in case you hadn't detected it yet.)

I'm talking about Prop 17 and Mercury Insurance. Right now, insurance companies can only offer "loyalty discounts" to good drivers who have spent a few years with the company. Like me. No wrecks, no tickets, and a loyal customer of my insurance company for 6 years now. My company has discounted my premiums over the years, hoping to keep a middle-aged responsible driver as a customer. In fact, I'd be quite a catch for any California insurer. But state laws say a competitor CAN'T  try to lure me away from my present insurer by offering me a discounted rate based on my insurance history.

And that's what Prop 17 wants to change. It wants to make it legal for one company to entice another company's customer away with a better rate based not on how long you've stayed with your insurer, but how good your driving record is. Backers of Prop 17 say drivers could save as much as $250 a year in lower premiums.

And what's more American than that? Free market capitalism at its best.  Put that up alongside mom, apple pie, and Celebrity Rehab. So why is Mercury Insurance behind Prop 17?  

Critics say the auto insurance game is like one of those balloons shaped to look like a Dachshund. Squeeze the rear part of the dog, and the head swells. What they argue is that when good people like me pay less for my insurance, bad drivers, and new drivers, will be foreced to pay higher premiums.  

I'm all for saving money. I mean, I need some spare cash for DirecTV so I can keep up with Jersey Shore and The Dog Whisperer.  But then I started thinking. I may be a responsible middle-aged guy, but I have three teenaged sons. And since none has any driving record at all, I can only imagine what their rates are going to be.  

And that may be Mercury's endgame. The company has already poured $10 million into backing Prop 17. Mercury must feel it can do a pretty good job of offering the state's best drivers really good rates, and is willing to take that chance.

And now, voters have to decide what chance they want to take. For me, I'll have to decide if a guy ready to put three more drivers on California roads is going to be going to be better off under Prop 17. Or should I just leave bad enough alone.

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