Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times

Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) announced two proposed bills aimed to help newspapers and freelance journalists continue to operate in California by exempting them from the state’s new anti-independent contracting law, Assembly Bill 5.

AB 5 is a state statute that codifies into law a landmark Supreme Court of California case, Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County, and which holds that most workers are employees, ought to be classified as such, and the burden of proof for classifying individuals as independent contractors belongs to the hiring entity.

AB 5 entitles workers classified as employees to greater labor protections, such as minimum wage laws, sick leave, and unemployment and workers’ compensation benefits, which do not apply to independent contractors.

The bill has sparked some divisiveness within the Legislature. It was introduced by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez and endorsed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. It was approved by the California State Senate 29-11 on a party-line vote, by the Assembly 56-15, and signed by Newsom on Sept. 18, 2019. It took effect Jan. 1, 2020.

“Assembly Bill 5 took a sledgehammer approach to an employment problem that required a scalpel, which consequently hammered many Californians who truly wish to remain their own bosses,” said Bates. “The Legislature can begin to fix some of AB 5’s flaws by helping California’s newspapers and journalists continue to operate normally as they have in our state. Passing my legislation will help preserve quality journalism in many communities.”

Sen. Bates introduced Senate Bills 867 and 868 to address separately the concerns of newspapers and freelance journalists. Both bills are currently pending referral to Senate policy committees.

State Sen. Patricia Bates

SB 867 would permanently exempt newspaper distributors and carriers from AB 5. While existing law exempts newspaper distributors from AB 5’s requirements for one year, it is not a long-term solution, Bates said.

“If left unfixed, AB 5 could eventually lead to the closing of many local papers by saddling them with additional costs they cannot afford,” Bates said.

SB 868 would exempt freelance journalists from AB 5. AB 5’s restriction limits freelance journalists to 35 stories a year if they wish to remain an independent contractor.

Bates represents the 36th Senate District in the California Legislature, which covers South Orange County, North San Diego County, and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

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