State Sen. Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, Thursday said she has introduced legislation to provide exemptions from a controversial state law for freelance journalists and news organizations that would free them from requirements for benefits extended to full-time employees.
The law extends benefits such as unemployment, minimum wages and vacations for many independent contractors.
“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,” Bates said. “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.”
One bill would exempt newspaper distributors and carriers from the law permanently. There is currently a one-year exemption.
Bates said newspaper publishers have argued they rely on independent contractors to deliver their papers, and many of the workers do not want to work full-time for just one company when they can draw paychecks from multiple publishers and have more flexible work schedules. The senator predicted the law could put many local newspapers out of business.
Bates said she has introduced another bill that would exempt freelance journalists, because of a “curious restriction” that caps them at 35 stories a year if they wish to stay independent contractors.
Bates said Vox Media canceled contracts with about 200 sportswriters because of the law.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who authored the bill, said, “We introduced AB 1850 to continue our work on these issues and to make sure the law is fair for workers, law-abiding businesses and California taxpayers.”
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