September 12, 2007

ACEC says ‘yes’ to roads and ‘no’ to lawsuits

ACEC Washington

Photo by Vince Streano
Voters in November will be faced with an RTID/ST2 ballot measure that includes $3 billion to expand capacity on Interstate 405.

Yes on Proposition 1, but reject Referendum 67! These were clear-cut and easy decisions for ACEC Washington leadership.

At the July ACEC Washington board meeting, the board voted unanimously to endorse Prop 1, known as Roads & Transit, and to endorse the Reject 67 campaign.

Prop 1

The campaign supporting the Roads & Transit package on this fall’s ballot is now under way. Voters in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties who reside within the Sound Transit and Regional Transportation Improvement District (RTID) will have the opportunity to create transportation choices and reduce congestion in our region by voting yes on Prop. 1 in November.

A broad coalition of business, labor and environmental leaders, called Keep Washington Rolling, has come together to back a plan that addresses vital road and bridge projects to reduce congestion and improve safety and freight mobility.

Support by the engineering community was nearly automatic. This ballot measure is the culmination of a long battle for adequate transportation funding and ACEC has been in the middle of it since the beginning. ACEC contributed $35,000 to the Keep Washington Rolling campaign and members have pledged to raise a total of $350,000.

This spring, RTID finished its plan called the Blueprint for Progress. Coordinating planning with Sound Transit’s plans for its second phase, this joint plan will dramatically improve our highways, transit and safety, and benefit the way people and goods get around the region for generations to come.

RTID Chair Shawn Bunney said it is both critical and possible for us to win in the general election on Nov. 6. The pollsters agree, saying it can be won with a good campaign. We in the engineering community will do all in our power to ensure that the voting public understands the issues and the needs presented by our ever-worsening transportation difficulties.

Referendum 67

ACEC Washington has joined Consumers Against Higher Insurance Rates to oppose Referendum 67, a ballot measure that expands Washington’s liability law and will lead to more lawsuits and higher insurance rates.

Referendum 67 may be aimed at insurance companies, but it is troubling to those in the construction industry because of the challenges contractors continue to face when seeking coverage in the construction liability insurance market.

Washington’s trial lawyers sponsored the measure being considered in Referendum 67 during the 2007 Washington legislative session. The measure allows triple damage awards and mandates full payment of plaintiffs’ attorney fees in lawsuits against insurance companies. There’s no limit on the amount of attorney fees — they could even exceed the amount of the damages in dispute!

Referendum 67 is written with vague and ambiguous language. Under this measure, the legal standard to bring a “bad faith” lawsuit in Washington will be the lowest in the nation, which means every challenged insurance claim could become a lawsuit threatening the award of triple damages and mandatory attorney fees. Insurers would be forced to pay significantly more to settle questionable claims — and even fraudulent claims — rather than risking costly legal expenses.

A national actuarial firm found a similar law in California caused premiums to rise 48 percent higher than the national average for some kinds of insurance during the decade before California voters repealed the law.

This referendum is not needed. Current law already protects consumers by requiring full compensation when an insurance claim is wrongfully denied. Consumers already have the right to sue their insurance company if they believe they have been treated unfairly. In addition, the Insurance Commissioner can — and does — assess stiff fines and other penalties against insurers that treat consumers unfairly.

Bill Garrity is the executive director of ACEC Washington and serves as president of the Washington Construction Industry Council.

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