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Senate approves bill to delay newspapers’ labor changes

The state Senate passed a bill granting the newspaper industry one extra year to meet new labor standards as the legislature races to beat the end of the legislative session.

Assembly Bill 323, dubbed the “Save Local Journalism Act,” passed 39-0 late on Sunday night, Aug. 30 and now advances to the Assembly for its next vote. The bill, authored by Assemblymember Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, has been amended to give the industry just one extra year before the state’s controversial Assembly Bill 5 forces changes to longstanding delivery practices. Originally, AB 323 offered a two-year grace period.

Newspaper publishers say if AB 323 does not become law, jobs will be lost and the creation and distribution of printed news editions will be cut.

Lawmakers face the end of their legislative session for the year on Monday, Aug. 31. The newspaper industry’s previous one-year extension from AB 5 workplace limitations expires at year’s end.

AB 5, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2019, is forcing many companies to recategorize independent contractors as employees. The law codifies a 2018 ruling by the state’s Supreme Court that said workers misclassified as independent contractors lose various workplace rights and protections.

State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, expressed frustration that businesses like newspaper distribution are being upended by what was once essentially an income tax dispute — the Dynamex court case about truck drivers’ workplace rights. The fix, AB 5, has overhauled much of the California workplace.

“The legislature should have just fixed the issues in Dynamex,” Moorlach said. “Instead they took a billy club to employers … and the Democrats just won’t let go.”

To Moorlach, the need for industry exemptions like AB 323 shows how flawed AB 5 is. He would prefer, at a minimum, a statewide delay in AB 5 implementation for all industries until the pandemic and its economic fallout are history.

In fact, state Sen. Pat Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, offered an AB 323 amendment so newspapers’ relief would have no sunset date. It failed along party lines.

Source: Orange County Register

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