Sacramento Report: National Journalists Discover AB 5 Exists - Voice of San Diego

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Sacramento Report: National Journalists Discover AB 5 Exists

The question of whether AB 5 will become law is over, but the debate over what’s in it and what the impact will be is not.

Supporters of AB 5 attend a press conference held by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. / Photo by Megan Wood

Who knew that some of the most heated, intense debate over AB 5, the law written by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez that limits when employers can classify someone an independent contractor, would happen after it had already been signed into law?

It began with this Hollywood Reporter piece laying out some freelance writers’ continuing anger over the law – particularly the provision that a journalist can submit up to 35 pieces a year for a single publication before that publication must classify him or her as an employee. The piece provoked an intense, vitriolic Twitter exchange between New York journalist Yashar Ali and Gonzalez.

One employer who admitted his publication might utilize freelancers less in order to avoid hiring them was Union-Tribune publisher Jeff Light. He told the Hollywood Reporter, “We’re in the process of sorting through the implications right now. Unfortunately, I suspect a number of freelancers will end up with less work from us as a result of the 35-piece limit. I don’t have anything more detailed than that at this point.”

That prompted a counterpoint piece of sorts from Vox, which noted: “What is overlooked is the alternative scenario: Without some sort of exemption for freelancers, it’s likely illegal for news outlets to hire any freelancers under a recent state Supreme Court ruling known as Dynamex. The exemption for freelance journalists was meant to create some flexibility for them.”

A columnist for The Week noted that she writes a jaw-dropping four columns a week for the publication but somehow is not an employee there.

Were I subject to a 35-article cap, I’d hit my limit here in less than nine weeks. So I’d either have to stop writing for The Week by the end of February or dramatically slow my pace of work to less than one column weekly, cutting my yearly output from about 200 columns to the mandated 35. Then, if I want to maintain my current income, I’d have to find five other outlets willing to publish 35 of my articles each year. Instead of working with one editor, I’d have to juggle six — and that’s if I were fortunate enough to successfully diversify my publication clients, which would be a monumental task, particularly with all the other freelancers trying to do the exact same thing at the exact same time.

More pieces followed. Capital and Main noted that translators and interpreters aren’t among the exempted professions and many have their own concerns about how the law will impact them.

Speaking of laws passed by Gonzalez …

The Union-Tribune outlined anxiety building over another new law from Gonzalez, one that lengthens the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse. A handful of other states have passed similar laws in recent years, and a few more don’t have limits at all.

“The cumulative effect is increasing the pressure on national organizations that are potentially facing a sustained onslaught of high-figure payouts, as well as prompting questions about how court systems can manage such a large volume of cases fairly and efficiently,” Kristina Davis writes.

County to Receive More SB 2 Money

New money continues to roll into the region from Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins’ 2017 legislation to increase real estate fees to fund affordable housing.

The first year of funding from the measure is designed to help communities throughout the state combat homelessness and undertake community planning work to streamline their development processes.

Earlier this month, state officials announced that the county will receive a $1.4 million California Emergency Solutions and Housing grant to aid efforts to tackle homelessness. The latest funding round follows a $2.5 million allocation earlier this year.

The county plans to use the new money to pay for increased rental assistance, support efforts to provide emergency housing and to pay for flexible housing subsidies meant to help move homeless San Diegans off the street.

County spokesman Tim McClain said the county expects to issue a request for proposals next spring that will help determine the specific programs funded by new money.

The county and its 18 cities are also poised to soon receive money associated with community planning efforts.

City officials plan to ask the state to use their expected $625,000 allocation to pay for community plan updates in Mira Mesa plus the Hillcrest and University City areas.

County supervisors are set to vote next week on staffers’ recommendation that the county seek state approval to use its $625,000 allocation to bolster its existing density bonus program allowing developers to build more units than zoning plans permit in exchange for building more homes reserved for low-income San Diegans so it can also serve middle-class residents. County officials also want to use the new funds to establish a so-called inclusionary housing program to require market rate developers to incorporate affordable units in their projects.

Lisa Halverstadt

Golden State News

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