If Proposition 33 sounds familiar, it should. The measure is almost identical to a statewide proposition that was narrowly defeated two years ago. And just as in 2010, the Yes campaign is funded almost entirely by George Joseph, the founder and chairman of Mercury Insurance.

Joseph wants to give California drivers the right to retain “loyalty discounts” when they renew their auto insurance, even if they switch companies. To do that, Prop. 33 would set aside a part of Proposition 103, the landmark auto insurance law passed by California voters in 1988.

Opponents say Proposition 33 is unfair and would lead to higher rates for new drivers and people whose insurance has lapsed. “Do we pay more for milk because we didn’t buy it before? Do we pay more for gasoline because we didn’t buy it before?” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. “If you’re a good driver and you decide to take mass transit because you can’t make ends meet. Or you go to college in another state and you don’t need a car, you shouldn’t get stuck with a very big surcharge when you come back and by insurance in California.”

Rachel Hooper is with the Yes on 33 campaign. She says the measure exempts people from higher fees if they’ve been in the military or have been laid off in the past 18 months. “If you lapse payment on your car insurance today, under California law, for any reason, you lose your discount. But under Proposition 33 we have all these protections.”

Under current state law, only three main factors can be used to calculate auto insurance rates: a person’s driving record, the number of miles driven annually and how long someone has been behind the wheel.

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