THERE ARE TWO statewide measures on the June 8 ballot that benefit special interests at the expense of the public and set a dangerous precedent that severely abuses the initiative process.
Propositions 16 and 17 have been heavily financed by two individual corporations, each of which has spent millions of dollars in an effort to confuse voters by misrepresenting the impact of the respective measures.
Unfortunately, consumer and public-interest groups do not have a fraction of the funds available to counter the misleading ads in favor of the two initiatives.
Proposition 16 is designed for the sole purpose of protecting Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s financial interests. The utility is expected to spend in excess of $35 million of ratepayer and investor money to promote its self-serving measure with a flood of TV and radio ads.
The ads disguise Prop. 16 as a pro-voter measure. In fact, it is an effort by PG&E to thwart cities and counties from combining to contract with an electricity provider other than a for-profit firm like PG&E.
Prop. 16 would undermine the ability of local governments to create publicly owned and operated utilities in California by mandating a difficult-to-achieve two-thirds vote. It is even harder to get a two-thirds supermajority to form a public utility should PG&E fund the opposition, as it has in the past.
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The other anti-consumer measure on the June 8 ballot is Prop. 17, the auto insurance measure, which is almost entirely funded by Mercury Insurance. It is designed to fool voters into believing it is simply a change in the law that would allow insurers to offer a "continuous coverage" discount on policies to new customers who switch auto insurance companies.
But that is hardly the whole story. Insurance companies also would be allowed to increase the cost of insurance to drivers who dropped their car insurance for 91 days or more in the past half-decade.
Huge surcharges of several hundred dollars or more would be allowed even for motorists with good driving records. Many of these are Californians who have had lapses in their auto insurance when they served in the military, went to college, suffered illnesses, lost their jobs or lived in a large city with good public transit.
The threat of paying surcharges appears, in part, to be designed to force some people to pay for auto insurance during periods when they do not need it. To assess Prop. 17, all voters have to do is ask themselves if Mercury Insurance Co., which spent $3.5 million to qualify and support the initiative, has consumers' welfare or its own financial interests in mind.
If either Props. 16 or 17 passes, similar special interest measures are sure to follow, especially if they can be financed by proponents with deep pockets and overwhelm consumer and other public-interest advocates.
To protect the public interest and the initiative process itself, voters need to firmly reject Propositions 16 and 17.