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2 GOP Legislators Plan No-Fault Initiative Drive : Insurance: Sen. Frank Hill and Assemblyman Ross Johnson propose a $220 policy that all drivers would have to buy.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two Republican legislators said Friday that they will launch an initiative drive for no-fault auto insurance based on a bipartisan proposal defeated this year in the Legislature to institute a $220-a-year bare-bones policy all drivers would be required to buy.

A spokesman for Gov. Pete Wilson welcomed the announcement by state Sen. Frank Hill of Whittier and Assemblyman Ross Johnson of La Habra, who said they would seek to place the measure on the November general election ballot.

“We believe the Legislature will be unable to pass needed reform on car insurance, and so it’s going to require an initiative implementing no-fault,” Wilson news secretary Bill Livingstone said. “We haven’t seen the exact language of the proposal yet, but we’re on record as supporting the bill on which it is based.”

Both Hill and Johnson said in separate interviews they intend to solicit Democratic support and have already received assurances of support from a coalition of minority and low-income consumers groups that have supported no-fault for two years.

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The legislators said they will submit the language of the proposed initiative to Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren next week. The attorney general has 45 days to prepare a title and summary of the measure. Circulation of petitions, to obtain the required 384,974 signatures, would proceed in a 150-day period early next year.

Hill, who co-authored the no-fault bill with state Sen. Patrick Johnston (D-Stockton) earlier this year, said he and his constituents are eager to go ahead, even though he has not yet gotten financial support for the initiative.

He said the measure would guarantee the $220 policy price through 1995. Drivers desiring more than the bare-bones coverage of $15,000 could buy more.

Under no-fault, a policy-holder’s own insurance company reimburses the costs of treating injuries and defraying some other losses, regardless of who is to blame in an accident. Under California’s tort liability system, the insurers of the party judged to be at fault are supposed to pay.

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Wilson and Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi support no-fault. But it has been stymied in the Legislature by the opposition of Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) and Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles).

Two no-fault initiatives on the 1988 ballot, backed by various elements of the insurance industry, got only 25% and 13% of the vote, respectively.

But those initiatives had many other provisions besides no-fault, constituting a wish list for the industry. The Hill-Johnson initiative, by contrast, would be much simpler, confined mainly to no-fault.

Nonetheless, insurers who put up $63.8 million in the insurance initiative wars of 1988, which saw the voters approve the anti-industry Proposition 103, have been leery about trying another initiative, and Hill said he has yet to secure assurances of broad industry support next year.

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Bob Gore, a spokesman for the Assn. of California Insurance Companies, had a cool reaction to news of an initiative drive.

On the other side, a spokeswoman for the California Trial Lawyers Assn., which is strongly opposed to no-fault, was sharply negative and did not accept assurances of industry non-involvement. “I’m confident the public will view this for what it is, a self-serving insurance industry sham,” Dina Huniu said.

Hill said he and Johnson have reached the point that they don’t care what the special interests think.

“We simply think it’s time to do this,” he said. “We feel it will cost us $500,000 to qualify the initiative. We’ll have enough to do that, and we’ll see what kind of financial support materializes later.”

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Hill said the $500,000 for circulating the initiative would come from past campaign contributions he and Johnson have received, from a mail solicitation campaign and, in part, from insurance industry sources.


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