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California and the West

Control of Quake Agency Shifts

Insurance: Democrats take over multibillion-dollar authority's board after political tug of war and quickly call for an audit.

May 14, 1999|VIRGINIA ELLIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — Democrats took control of the multibillion-dollar California Earthquake Authority on Thursday, using their muscle on the governing board to outvote the lone Republican on everything from a management audit to the number of times they will meet.

The authority, which has been the focus of a tug of war between Democratic state Treasurer Phil Angelides and Republican Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush, met for the first time since December.

The meeting had been called by Angelides after Quackenbush, the chairman, denied repeated requests from the Democrats that he schedule a session of the board.

On Thursday, Angelides dominated the discussion, insisting that the new Democratic majority needs a thorough review of the agency's operations to ensure that it can meet its commitment to the nearly 1 million policyholders in California who have purchased earthquake insurance.

He teamed up with Tal Finney, who represented Gov. Gray Davis on the board, to push through approval of an audit despite objections from Mark Lowder, Quackenbush's representative.

The board also agreed to meet every two months.

The three-member board oversees the state-run insurance agency created by the Legislature in 1996 to provide coverage to homeowners in quake-prone areas.

It was dominated by Republicans until the November elections gave Democrats a majority.

While making it clear that they intended to play a bigger role in the authority's operations than past board members, the new majority did not suggest any changes in the rates charged to policyholders.

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