Wildfire has hit Assemblymember Damon Connolly’s (D-San Rafael) Northern California district specifically hard in recent years, in conjunction with the devastating Glass and LNU Lightning Complicated fires in 2020, the Nuns and Tubbs fires in 2017, and the Valley fireside in 2015.
Inside the wake of that destruction has come the predictable insurance-market dislocation: huge value will build up for house owners insurance coverage insurance policies, ratings of nonrenewals, and a flood of applications to sign up for the already-burdened California FAIR Plan.
Noting particularly the bigger burden this has had for seniors in his district, in particular those in more rural and fire-prone areas, Connolly is proposing a legislative automotive to offer aid. AB 478, expected to be heard briefly in the course of the Assembly Insurance policy Committee, would prohibit nonrenewals of homeowners insurance coverage insurance policies held thru named insureds who are 65 or older for houses positioned in areas deemed at “high” or “very high” risk of wildfire. It moreover would cap best elegance hikes for those insureds at 25%, would absolute best permit such hikes once every 5 years, and would grant the insured 3 years to pay off any better premiums.
There are lots of problems one might (and I might) elevate with the substance of the bill, while however acknowledging the validity of the issue Connolly must care for. On the other hand there’s just one problem: under the words of California’s 35-year-old Proposition 103, the measure is facially unconstitutional.
Connolly acknowledges that the measure seeks to amend Prop 103, which is why its text notes that it could require a two-thirds vote in every chambers of the California State Legislature to transport. On the other hand that’s if truth be told not the only requirement to make changes to a voter-passed proposition in California. To take have an effect on, the bill must also be deemed “to further its purposes.”
What exactly does that suggest? Well, as the 2nd District Court docket of Enchantment of California wrote inside the 1998 choice Proposition 103 Enforcement v. Quackenbush:
Any doubts should be resolved in make a choice of the initiative and referendum power, and amendments which may struggle with the subject matter of initiative measures must be accomplished thru well-liked vote, as opposed to legislatively enacted ordinances, where the original initiative does not provide another way.
Prop 103’s stated purposes were to “to protect customers from arbitrary insurance policy fees and practices, to encourage a competitive insurance policy marketplace.” To accomplish the ones purposes, the legislation circumscribes a limited (I might argue, a ways too limited) set of risk-based variables that insurers may consider in underwriting and rate-setting. Some of the ones elements are mandatory and the set of them is to be thought to be exhaustive; insurers won’t add any new variables to the list, although they are able to produce actuarial justification for their use.
An insured’s age is not a permittable variable under Prop 103 for house owners insurance policy insurance coverage insurance policies. There is also no reason to suspect that the usage of age may well be actuarially justified. For sure, prescribing mandatory house owners insurance policy discounts on the basis of age is exactly such a “arbitrary observe” that Prop 103 used to be as soon as passed to prohibit.
Moreover, granting favorable fees and underwriting requirements to some insureds based most effective on their age, without any justification in their underlying risk profile, would appear to violate not absolute best the desires of Prop 103, however as well as California Civil Code Section 5. Often referred to as the Unruh Civil Rights Act, that legislation provides “protection from discrimination thru all business establishments in California … because of age, ancestry, color, disability, national starting, race, religion, sex and sexual orientation.”
It could be totally understandable if Connolly, a duly elected marketing consultant of the folks of California, were to truly really feel annoyed that even a measure that receives two-thirds majorities in every chambers of the legislature is held hostage to the results of a ballot measure passed 35 years up to now thru a unadorned 51% majority of most of the people. For sure, I have written proper right here previous than about how California’s initiative process most often, and Prop 103 specifically, perverts the democratic process.
On the other hand he would not be the principle. If there’s somebody who’s acutely aware of the pain of coming to grips with this paralyzingly inflexible legislation, it’s George Joseph, the 101-year-old chairman (and erstwhile longtime CEO) of Mercury Standard.
A legend of the insurance policy business, the one that basically invented risk-based auto insurance policy fees inside the Sixties, Joseph introduced into a better than 20-year battle to amend Prop 103 in one small on the other hand simple approach. All he wanted used to be as soon as so that you could offer “persistency” discounts—which Prop 103 shall we in insurers to grant to their own long-term insureds as a loyalty reward—to shoppers who saved stable coverage with other insurers.
Given the evidence that insurance policy shoppers in most cases have a tendency to be stricken through “lock in” and don’t retailer spherical for alternatives when they choose a provider, Joseph’s methodology used to be as soon as certainly pro-consumer. For sure, in recent years, the business has come under fireside for arguable pricing practices that exploit that very consumer apathy and charge higher fees to those insureds deemed least much more likely to retailer spherical. Mercury’s plan used to be as soon as the antidote to all of that.
Or, at least, it could had been, within the match that they’ve been allowed to stick it. For a time inside the 1990s, then-California Insurance policy Commissioner Harry Low authorized the company to offer a modified fashion of the cut price, on the other hand the courts disagreed. Inside the early 2000s, with Mercury’s strong endorsement and with the desired two-thirds majorities, the legislature passed and then-Gov. Gray Davis signed SB 841, which may have amended Prop 103 to explicitly permit persistency discounts. Yet again, the courts struck it down.
Superb intentions on the other hand, inside the off chance that AB 478 moreover receives the desired two-thirds fortify in every chambers, there’s no question it could moreover meet the equivalent future.