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Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara Under Fire

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Ricardo Lara’s troubles aside, reverting to an appointed insurance commissioner would hurt consumers

by Harvey Rosenfeld

SACRAMENTO (CalMatters) — Where the troubling trail of accusations dogging Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara will lead is hard to tell. State records show that insurance industry executives and their relatives gave tens of thousands of dollars to Lara’s campaign committee–even as he intervened on their behalf in cases before his agency.

We’ll know more on Aug. 31. That’s when Lara has promised to make public his communications and calendars of meetings with the executives.

Whatever happens then, one principle is clear: the public’s ability to hold the Insurance Commissioner accountable at the ballot box—a reform adopted by California voters in 1988 by an initiative I wrote—remains their best protection against a wayward regulator.

We learned that lesson the hard way. When insurance commissioners were appointed by governors, skyrocketing insurance premiums for auto, home and even medical malpractice coverage routinely destabilized the economy.

In the 1980s, the Legislature required Californians to buy auto insurance, and young African American and Latino men were charged thousands of dollars for coverage that they could not afford.

Then Gov. George Deukmejian and his appointed commissioner stood by and did nothing while the insurance companies feasted on our flesh, immune from regulation, civil rights and antitrust lawsuits or any other form of accountability for their behavior.

In 1988, voters took matters into their own hands and enacted a series of powerful consumer protections against excessive insurance rates and abusive practices. To force the insurance companies to obey these unprecedented reforms, the initiative made the insurance commissioner an elected position, providing aspiring politicians a powerful incentive to enforce the laws, and, if they did that job well, a platform for higher office.

Mandating political accountability worked. Under elected insurance commissioners, California’s auto insurance rates have actually dropped over the last 30 years. By contrast, states across America saw liability premiums rise by an average of 58%.

The Consumer Federation of America reported in 2018 that California drivers alone have saved $150 billion on their auto insurance bills since 1989. Only 11 states have appointed insurance commissioners.

The first elected Insurance Commissioner, Congressman John Garamendi, established a tradition: He vowed never to take money from the companies he regulated. Only two insurance commissioners have violated this unwritten rule.

Twenty years ago, Chuck Quackenbush created an off the books slush fund with insurance company money, in exchange for favorable treatment for companies accused of stiffing policyholders on Northridge earthquake claims.

Facing impeachment and possible prosecution, Quackenbush resigned in 2000. Once described as a promising candidate for statewide office, Quackenbush moved to Florida where he became a police officer.

Unlike Quackenbush, who made his public hostility to 103’s reforms a fundraising tool, newly elected Insurance Commissioner Lara has presented himself as a progressive with a pro-consumer agenda.

That makes all the more jarring his comments during a closed-door conference with insurance industry lawyers and lobbyists last month: he criticized Proposition 103’s protections and said he was ready to “get creative, just like all of you have been for so many years.”

Allegations that Lara used his office to reward donors raise serious legal questions that he will have to answer completely and quickly. Pandering to a bunch of industry executives at a luncheon isn’t unlawful but it is troubling.

Either way, Commissioner Lara knows the punishment for protecting insurance companies at the expense of consumers: exile from public life.

Some pundits argue that Lara’s conduct is the fault of the voters for politicizing the office. But going back to the system in which the insurance commissioner is appointed would only please the powerful insurance lobby, and it would disenfranchise Californians of one of their most successful powers: the ability to elect the person who protects their checkbooks.

Harvey Rosenfield is the author of Proposition 103 and founder of Consumer Watchdog, harvey@consumerwatchdog.org.

This article is produced as part of WeHo Daily’s partnership with CalMatters, a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters.


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Amoeba Hollywood is Moving to El Centro Complex

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HOLLYWOOD — Amoeba is the community’s source for music, music, and more. It is going to have a new space by labor day on the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Argyle, in the heart of everything.

It will cover a large ground level space in the new “El Centro” complex in downtown Hollywood. This is just 2 blocks east and 2 blocks north of the current location, and right next door to the Fonda Theatre. 

While it is a bit smaller, Amoeba will be able to house all the usual formats and goodies. It is a virtual Hollywood institution. The store expects to close temporarily to get set up. In the interim, the store will continue to have live shows, signings, DJ Sets, and meet-and-greet events every week, as they do now.

In addition, the trade counter will be right up front in the new location, like it is now. There will be a few short-term meters on Argyle for easy unloading.

In the El Centro complex there will be great L.A.-based businesses such as Urban Radish Market & Healthy Spot as our neighbors. Next door is the always rockin’ Fonda Theatre, and just across Hollywood Blvd. is the new Funko Pop store and Shake Shack, with the historic Pantages Theater and Frolic Room just west of us on Hollywood Blvd. Additionally, there are many eateries, coffee shops, retail shopping, and the huge W Hotel all within easy walking distance.

According to Mayor Garcetti, “Los Angeles is a creative capital — a place filled with dreamers who move and inspire us every day. Amoeba Music reflects the best of this creative spirit, and Angelenos are fortunate this beloved cultural treasure has found a new home guaranteeing its place in our city for years to come.” 

In the words of Mitch O’Farrell, Los Angeles City Councilmember, “I think I speak for most Angelenos when I say that we are thrilled that our beloved Amoeba Music is staying in Hollywood.”



Follow Amoeba’s social channels (FacebookInstagramTwitter) and/or sign up for the weekly email newsletter in the space below. They’ll be posting updates online at amoeba.com/moveupdate.

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LGBTQ100 Stock Index Outperforming S&P Since Launch

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WEST HOLLYWOOD — LGBTQ Loyalty Holdings, Inc. (OTC: LFAP) today announced that the LGBTQ100 ESG Index (Ticker: LGBTQ100) reached an intra-day high of 2,009.02 and closed at 2,006.96 for the first time since inception on October 30, 2019.

Designed to advance equality throughout corporate America, the Index tracks the top 100 companies within the U.S. that rank high on environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics and support the cause for diversity and equality across the nation.

“I’m thrilled that our LGBTQ100 ESG Index, which screens for ESG compliance in addition to advancing equality, has outperformed the S&P 500 in its first 90 days,” said Bobby Blair, CEO of LGBTQ Loyalty Holdings, Inc. “Our community has direct input into the selection of these top 100 equality-driven corporations, which ultimately furthers our collective mission to deliver an Index that supports and aligns with the LGBTQ community.” 

The Index went live on Oct. 30, 2019, with an opening value of 1,807.85. Since launch, the Index has outperformed the S&P 500 by 1.21%. 

“This outperformance is consistent with what we saw during the rigorous design phase of the Index,” commented Partha Sen, CEO of Fuzzy Logix, the company powering the Index analytics. “During historical back-testing, the Index demonstrated excess returns over the S&P 500 of nearly 4.7% annually.”

For more information about the LGBTQ100 ESG Index, please visit www.lgbtq100.com.

About LGBTQ Loyalty Holdings, Inc.

LGBTQ Loyalty is a financial methodology and media company that quantifies corporate equality alignment with the LGBTQ community and its supporters. The Company has benchmarked the first-ever U.S. Loyalty Preference Index, which the Company believes will empower the LGBTQ community to express their preferences for the nation’s high-performing corporations most dedicated to advancing equality. The Loyalty Preference Index, which is an environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) Index, will also offer an added perspective for those seeking to align with equality-driven, ESG-responsible corporations. LGBTQ Loyalty’s leadership includes seasoned authorities in the financial industry and LGBTQ community.

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Mr. C Beverly Hills Hotel Workers to Bargain for Union Contract

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BEVERLY HILLS — On November 1, 2019, housekeeping workers at Mr. C participated in an election to be represented by UNITE HERE Local 11. The union believes that once legal challenges concerning the election are settled, it will have prevailed and the hotel will be unionized.

If Local 11 is certified as the employees’ bargaining agent, it expects to propose significant improvements to wages, benefits and working conditions as part of the housekeeping workers’ first collective bargaining agreement.

Although wage and benefit standards vary across hotels that employ workers who are represented by Local 11, wages will reach $25 per hour at many Los Angeles-area hotels by 2023. At most of these hotels, members are also participants in union health care and pension plans.

The Mr. C Beverly Hills hotel is not covered by a labor peace agreement. Labor disputes at other Los Angeles-area hotels have included strikes, regular picket lines, and boycotts. For example, the Terranea Resort in nearby Rancho Palos Verdes, California, is the subject of a much publicized, women-led boycott (see metooterranea.org for details).

During the union election at Mr. C, management challenged the voting eligibility of three workers employed as room inspectors, causing the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to impound their ballots. If tallied for the union, the three outstanding ballots will contribute to a majority vote for unionization.

In a lengthy decision issued on January 10, an NLRB Hearing Officer concluded that the three workers were eligible to vote, rejected the employer’s other objections, and issued a recommendation that the impounded ballots be counted. The employer has filed exceptions to this recommendation, which is presently before regional NLRB regional leadership.

UNITE HERE Local 11 is a labor union representing over 32,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona who work in hotels, restaurants, universities, convention centers and airports.

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