How we’re minding your business

From the Fall 2016 issue of California Publisher

Much of the work of the CNPA Board of Directors begins at the committee level. At the Oct. 7 quarterly CNPA meeting, several committees met and the board heard and acted on committee reports. These meetings, by the way, as well as the governance of CNPA, are open to all CNPA members. For example, Dave Scholl, publisher of Dixon’s Independent Voice, who is not a current board director, attended the meeting and made valuable contributions to committee discussions.

The Governmental Affairs Committee usually kicks off the Friday meeting and did so this time. Chaired by Jeff Glasser of the Los Angeles Times, the committee began by reviewing CNPA’s efforts during this last legislative session, which adjourned Aug. 31. The committee discussed bills from a 22-page document called the CNPA Legislative Scorecard. These are all the bills your staff attempted to influence on behalf of the industry.

The chair and staff described wins, losses and works in progress. The committee reviewed the status of dozens of FOI bills: on drones, body and car cams, public records and open meetings laws, access to police misconduct records, anonymous juries and more. Many of these issues — like drone regulation, police misconduct record reform and access to body and car cam footage — are works in progress and will requires CNPA’s focus next year.

One bill that took a lot of the committee’s time was sponsored by Planned Parenthood in response to the surreptitious videos of PP meetings made by anti-abortion activists. As introduced, the PP bill would have created liability for newspapers and journalists that lawfully received and published leaked information and communications made without the consent of all parties to the conversation. CNPA worked this bill hard over the session, and while it was ultimately signed by the governor, CNPA negotiated amendments that give the newspaper industry substantial protection from liability.

The committee discussed many bills and issues affecting the business climate. In my mind, CNPA’s biggest victory this year was the successful negotiation of new regulatory changes affecting the way the state collects sales taxes on the sale of newspapers. The changes to Regulation 1590 recognize that newspapers that sell “mixed subscriptions” — printed newspapers along with a right to access digital content. Because tax is only collected on “tangible personal property,” the value of the digital subscription is not subject to tax.

And CNPA negotiated a default non-taxable portion of the mixed subscription: 53 percent is now presumed to be the nontaxable sale of the right to access the digital content. This change in the law will save newspapers millions of dollars!

Staff reported on a bill signed by the governor to re-create the defunct Judicial Districts as “Public Notice Districts” for purposes of determining which newspaper in a geographic area should be used by a public notice advertiser. This bill represented two years of staff work and will have a stabilizing impact on public notice advertising. Staff gave a shout-out to Michelle Stephens at the California Newspaper Service Bureau for her critical role in the success of this project.

The last item discussed is very important and can’t be done justice here. It is CNPA’s attempt to pass legislation to bring some stability to the law associated with independent contractor carriers in light of several class-action lawsuits over the last decade. CNPA seeks only to codify (put into positive law) longstanding regulations that have governed the relationship between publishers and independent newspaper carriers.

The committee discussed a strategy for success that includes working with the governor’s office and legislative leaders in both parties and a strong and unified CNPA. This effort will require all members to communicate and engage directly with their Assembly members and senators in the upcoming legislative session.

You will be receiving a lot of information from your staff on this issue in the coming months. Please give it your best effort.

Running short on time, the committee barely touched on issues associated with litigation, a couple of local public notice problems and a report on the Federal anti-SLAPP legislation.

If you want to see the value of your CNPA membership, I recommend you attend a meeting of your Governmental Affairs Committee. Better yet, join me in Sacramento on Feb. 15 for CNPA Governmental Affairs Day. I’ll see you there!

CNPA President Michelle Chantry is president and CEO of TBC Media, which includes The Bakersfield Californian.