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NEWS RELEASE
May 07, 2003


CONTACT: Carmen Balber - 310-392-0522 x324

Low-Income Community Groups Call on Democrat to Protect Poor, Not Donors

Senate Leader Must Stop Anti-Poor Auto Insurance Bill, Groups Say
Santa Monica, CA. -- In a letter sent today, low-income community advocates across California called on Senate Leader John Burton to oppose legislation which will surcharge poor drivers and deny the insurance industry attempt to grease a bill through the legislature with campaign contributions.

SB 841 (Perata) would surcharge low-income motorists who have lapses in coverage (for example, those who have lost a job), or are buying insurance for the first time, in order to allow insurers to offer a small discount to drivers with other companies. The legislation also violates California law enacted with Proposition 103, which makes it illegal to penalize drivers simply because they lack prior insurance coverage.

The activists point out that although Mercury Insurance, sponsor of SB 841, was a large contributor to the Democratic Party, "the people we represent are your party's soul." Mercury gave over $1.2 million to politicians since 2001, including $35,000 to the bill's author, Senator Perata.

Read the letter.

"Insurers that support SB 841 do not care that low-income individuals have to choose between food and auto insurance payments. You should," said the letter. "Our organizations count on you to protect those who can't afford auto insurance before you help those who already have it. Please help us stop SB 841."

The letter counters claims by Mercury Insurance CEO George Joseph, reported today in the Sacramento Bee, that drivers whose coverage has lapsed deserve to be charged more because they are driving illegally. "[SB 841] discriminates against those with small paychecks and big bills who choose not to drive because of financial stresses at certain times in their lives," notes the letter.

The groups signing the letter include: JERICHO: A Voice for Justice; Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE); Bet Tzedek Legal Services; Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN); Consumers Union; Labor/Community Strategy Center (Bus Riders Union); Strategic Action for a Just Economy (SAJE); Center for Public Interest Law; Consumer Action; and, Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR).

The bill will be heard today, Wednesday, May 7, in the Senate Insurance committee.
------------------------


May 6, 2003

The Honorable John Burton
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814
VIA FACSIMILE


Dear Senator Burton:

Low income motorists deserve better than SB 841 (Perata) -- which allows insurance companies to charge drivers with lapses in coverage more money in violation of voter-approved Proposition 103.

Why should those who cannot afford continuous coverage be penalized by insurance companies simply because they are poor and auto insurance costs too much? This legislation discriminates against those with small paychecks and big bills who choose not to drive because of financial stresses at certain times in their lives.

Insurers that support SB 841 do not care that low-income individuals have to choose between food and auto insurance payments. You should.

Maintaining insurance coverage is not always possible. You should recognize that it is not a crime not to buy auto insurance if you cannot afford to drive an automobile.

Our organizations count on you to protect those who can't afford auto insurance before you help those who already have it. Please help us stop SB 841.

We understand that Mercury Insurance is one of the biggest donors to the Democratic Party in California. But the people we represent are your party's soul.

Sincerely,

S. Simone Campbell
Executive Director
JERICHO: A Voice for Justice

Madeline Janis-Aparicio
Executive Director
Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE)

Mitchell Kamin
Executive Director
Bet Tzedek Legal Services

John Ellers
Head Organizer
ACORN

Norma Garcia
Senior Attorney
Consumers Union

Deborah Orosz
Organizer
Labor/Community Strategy Center (Bus Riders Union)

Mary Lee
Civil rights attorney

Elizabeth Blaney
Strategic Action for a Just Economy (SAJE)

Robert C. Fellmeth
Executive Director
Center for Public Interest Law

Cher McIntyre
Director of Advocacy
Consumer Action

Ted Gullicksen
San Francisco Tenants Union

Jamie Court
Executive Director
Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights

Joan B. Lee
Legislative Liason
Gray Panthers California

Dennis Quirin
Development Associate
Californians for Justice (CFJ)

Danny Park
Executive Director
Korean Immigrant Workers Advocates (KIWA)

Oren Sellstrom
Staff Attorney
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR)




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