The director of California Common Cause, in a lengthy letter to Gov. George Deukmejian on Friday, asked the governor to assume personal responsibility for the implementation of Proposition 103.
Writing that Insurance Commissioner Roxani Gillespie and her department are "clearly floundering" and have lost the confidence of the public, Common Cause official Walter Zelman urged the governor to restore public confidence in the state's effort to implement the landmark insurance initiative.
A spokesman for Deukmejian said the governor was traveling and there would be no immediate comment. A political consultant recently hired by Gillespie, Stu Mollrich, noted that Zelman, a Democrat, has been mentioned as considering running for insurance commissioner next year.
In his letter, Zelman said, "The Proposition 103 implementation problem is becoming a full-blown crisis in government administration.
"The crisis we perceive is not one of personnel or even insurance," he wrote. "It is a crisis of public confidence in the capacity of California government to execute state law. We fear that the governmental process is becoming an object of public anger, scorn and ridicule.
"Our government, and specifically the Department of Insurance, appears adrift and unable to cope with its new administrative burden or with the political controversy that is part of the 103 implementation process."
Zelman said the public has come to believe that Gillespie and her department have been "either biased, ineffective, indecisive or without direction."
He accused Gillespie of allowing months to pass without preparing implementation procedures, resisting certain parts of Proposition 103 while advocating alternative insurance reform solutions such as no-fault, failing to organize well-defined hearings and data collection processes and exempting many insurers from rate rollbacks without fully disclosing why.
Under the circumstances, Zelman told Deukmejian, "The direct involvement of your office is now mandatory."
He asked the governor to convene a high-level representative task force of all major groups to reach reasonable compromises on implementation procedures, insist that Gillespie hold hearings on major issues such as what rate of return the insurance companies should be allowed, agree to finance consumer representation in the upcoming proceedings and make it clear that the full authority of the governor's office is behind implementation.
Barring this, there will be "more public frustration and anger and a further decline in public confidence in governmental institutions," Zelman said.
Gillespie consultant Mollrich responded later that "Zelman may as well ask the governor to take over the Legislature. They're not doing the job either."
Mollrich, coordinator of the oust-Rose Bird campaign three years ago and the campaign for the property-tax cutting Proposition 13 a decade ago, was recently retained by Gillespie to assess her chances of keeping her post when it becomes an elective office next year.
He said Friday he has just begun his assessment and cannot say when it will be completed. But he disagreed with those who have been saying that Gillespie ruined her chances when she decided that hundreds of insurance companies should be exempted from the Proposition 103 rollbacks.
"There's no perception of Gillespie that has really impacted the public at all," Mollrich said in an interview. "There have been a few stories over a one-week period about her exemption decisions, but they won't have a tremendously long impact.