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Citing 'Fatal Defects,' Wilson Vetoes Insurance Measure

October 01, 1994|KENNETH REICH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gov. Pete Wilson on Friday vetoed the so-called "homeowners bill of rights," legislation aimed at protecting disaster victims from unscrupulous insurance practices and authored by the Democratic candidate for insurance commissioner, state Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles).

Acting on the last day to sign or veto legislation, the Republican governor said he had found "several fatal defects" in the bill. But he added that the measure did include some "positive consumer protections" and that he would sign such a measure if the defects were corrected.

Wilson said in a two-page veto message that firefighters and district attorneys had told him Torres' bill would have impaired prosecution of arsonists by setting up impediments to insurance companies when questioning claimants under oath.

Also, noting that the bill called for simplifying the language in homeowner insurance policies to a ninth-grade level, Wilson said he feared that the alterations could lead to myriad lawsuits over "coverage issues already decided by the courts, thus benefiting attorneys, not consumers."

He said he favored such provisions as limitations on the number of adjusters who could be assigned to a claim and greater written documentation of the claims process.

In an interview, Torres said: "The only reasons he vetoed this bill was the influence of the insurance industry and because that fair-haired tool of the industry, Chuck Quackenbush, would get credit for killing it. The homeowners lost today."

Assemblyman Quackenbush of Cupertino is Torres' Republican opponent for the insurance commissioner post in the Nov. 8 election.

Torres caustically remarked that Wilson has received $700,000 for his reelection campaign from the insurance industry.

Wilson's insurance adviser, Marjorie Berte, did not dispute the contribution figure. But she added: "The homeowners have not lost today. There were anti-consumer provisions of this bill which should not be enacted, and Gov. Wilson has asked for a new homeowners bill of rights that's done right."

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