Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Petition OK'd for insurance cut plan

car insurance

Lansing -- The petition form for a 2010 ballot initiative calling for a 20 percent cut in auto insurance rates won approval of a state elections panel Monday.

The proposal also would slash rates by another 20 percent for good drivers who have no points on their driving record in the past six years and ban insurance companies from using credit history to set premiums.

The Board of State Canvassers voted 4-0 to approve the petition form.

Kim Bowman, an aide to Sen. Hansen Clarke, D-Detroit, who is backing the proposal, said the "inability to do anything through the Legislature" on this issue is part of the reason he's moving ahead with a ballot strategy. Gov. Jennifer Granholm also has called for a 20 percent cut in car insurance rates.

Bowman said she could not comment on when petition circulation would begin, whether the coalition behind the proposal called Fair and Accountable Insurance Rates would hire a firm to collect signatures or how much money the group intends to raise for the petition drive.

More than 304,000 valid signatures are required, according to the Secretary of State's Office. The group has 180 days to collect signatures once it begins circulating the petition.

Insurance industry representatives oppose the initiative, calling the 20 percent reduction "arbitrary" and adding that any plan that cuts rates without cutting costs will cause hardship for insurers.

"This is an unrealistic proposal," said Pete Kuhnmuench, executive director of the Insurance Institute of Michigan.

Kuhnmuench said that the proposal would be "tough to fight" if it gets on the ballot.

But Tom Shields, spokesman for the Michigan Insurance Coalition, said the proposal is "a loser on the ballot."

Detroiters pay the highest urban rate for overall coverage in the country, an average $5,072 a year -- $1,200 more than Philadelphia, which has the second-highest rate.

The state's $1,067 average annual premium ranks 14th nationally, Kuhnmuench said.

Backers of insurance reform say rates have soared in recent years, adding that companies use unfair measures such as a driver's credit history, place of residence, occupation and educational background to set premiums.