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Poizner drops ballot initiative

Uninsured drivers would have had their license plates seized.

February 26, 2008|Marc Lifsher | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner has halted a ballot initiative drive that would have empowered authorities to seize the license plates from vehicles belonging to drivers who had no auto insurance.

Poizner launched the campaign late last year, saying strong action was needed to take off the road the estimated 25% of drivers who fail to comply with California's mandatory auto insurance law.

The proposal was seen at the time as linked to Poizner's expected 2010 candidacy for governor. But he said Monday that he had concluded that it would be better to work with the Legislature to expand participation in the state-backed, low-cost auto insurance program than to "lock something in stone" by trying to pass a ballot measure in November.

"Voters don't want initiatives put in front of them until all other paths are fully explored," Poizner said.

Poizner said he put the initiative drive on hold after research convinced him that it would be overly complicated to have state and local law enforcement officials take plates and prevent people from driving.

Opponents of the proposed initiative had threatened a hard fight. "He was going to face the unprecedented, united opposition of immigrant groups, civil rights groups as well as law enforcement on this measure," said Samuel Kang, an attorney with the Greenlining Institute, a Berkeley-based consumer activist group.

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