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A bill granting the newspaper industry an extra year to meet new labor standards was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday, Sept. 30.

Assembly Bill 323, authored by Assemblymember Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, gives the industry time to figure out how to mesh the state’s controversial Assembly Bill 5 with longstanding newspaper delivery practices. Originally, AB 323 offered a two-year grace period.

The bill, dubbed the “Save Local Journalism Act,” passed the state Assembly 71-4 after gaining Senate approval, 39-0. Newsom’s approval came without comment.

The newspaper industry faced implementing AB 5 limitations in 2021 while suffering harsh economic fallout from the pandemic as well as long-term challenges. Publishers warned that without AB 323 jobs were at risk and the creation and distribution of printed news editions could be cut.

“It was grand effort, a must-win for the industry. But let’s be clear. This wasn’t a victory over the forces that plague our industry,” said a statement from Charles Champion, president of the California News Publishers Association. “The bill does not erase the digital challenge to our traditional print business models. It does not exempt us from the effects of AB 5. It will not overcome declining ad revenue. Those challenges remain.

“The reality is that a year from now, barring an unlikely change in the political environment, the state’s news publishing industry could face the same kind of existential threat it endured this year.”

AB 5, signed into law 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.

“Many members of our community reply on local news and (AB 323) will go a long way towards maintaining these crucial sources of information,” Rubio said in a statement.

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By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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