In two actions on the final day of the surreal 2020 session, the legislature passed a couple of measures that would provide relief to beleaguered newspapers.

The first, AB 323 by Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio (D-West Covina) would extend for another year the exemption for newspaper carriers from the stringent ABC test used to determine whether workers are properly classified as independent contractors. The current exemption is scheduled to expire on January 1, 2021 and the extension would change it to January 1, 2022. 

AB 323 also would require the Department of General Services to identify all advertising contracts awarded by the state, which media sources received the contracts, and the amounts paid to each media source. This is intended to help the state as well as ethnic and community news organizations understand the inequities that exist for these news organizations with respect to the state’s ad contracting practices. The information will be used in future efforts to reduce these inequities. 

AB 323 was strongly supported by CNPA and many individual newspapers whose publishers personally contacted their Senators and Assembly members urging them to support the bill. The publishers’ effort paid off – the Senate voted 39-0 to pass the measure and the Assembly concurred in a 71-4 vote to support their local newspapers. 

Many CNPA members ran editorials, op/eds by local community leaders and advertisements in support of the effort dubbed the Save Local Journalism Act. All of these efforts were the reason why the bill received such strong legislative support and CNPA is deeply grateful for the commitment and extraordinary work by all of those involved. 

The other bill, AB 2257 by Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), the author of AB 5, is the clean-up legislation to address some of the lingering problems that weren’t resolved in AB 5 last year. It includes a provision that eliminates the 35-submission cap for freelance writers, photographers, artists, cartoonists, and editors. It also adds exemptions for other job classifications including musicians, translators, and youth sports coaches and officials among many others. 

AB 2257 also contains an urgency clause which means that the bill becomes law immediately upon the Governor’s signature rather than on January 1, 2021 when all other bills become effective. The Senate vote on AB 2257 was 39-0, the Assembly vote was 74-0

AB 323 was the only bill, other than AB 2257, to be passed by the legislature that amended AB 5. 

The Governor has not taken an official position on either bill but is expected to sign both.

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