JAN SIEGEL, Rancho Mission Viejo

We are extremely fortunate in South County to have three local newspapers.  The Capistrano Dispatch, Dana Point Times and San Clemente Times have served their local communities for more than a decade. The city editors at all three papers have done investigative reporting on many issues facing these communities. 

Over the past week, the Orange County Register has had articles encouraging the passing of Assembly Bill 323.  The legislature must pass this bill and then pass it on to the Senate before August 31.  If it does not, Assembly Bill 5, which was passed in 2019, goes into effect. AB5 defines which workers should be categorized as contractors and which should be classified as employees. Independent newspaper carriers would be reclassified as an employee. Costs for independent newspapers would increase 60% to 80%. According to the President and Publisher of the Register, “AB5 will have disastrous consequences for the readers and communities we serve. Eliminating print editions on one or more days a week, closing our community weekly papers, and curtailing coverage of cities. That is why we are urging the California Legislature to pass AB 323, the Save Local Journalism Act, which was unanimously passed by the Senate Labor Committee this month.” 

Because of my concern, I wrote to Senator Pat Bates, who represents all three of our communities. She is the co-author of AB 323. Senator Bates stated, “AB5 took a sledgehammer approach to an employment problem that required a scalpel. The Legislature can begin to fix some of AB5’s flaws by helping California’s newspapers continue to operate normally as they have in our state. That is why I have co-authored AB 323, because it will help preserve quality journalism in many communities for at least another two years.” AB 323 is not the perfect solution, and Senator Bates has also authored Senate Bill 867 that would create a permanent exemption for newspaper distributors and carriers from AB5’s provisions. But that will not happen until at least next year. 

That is why it is so important for the legislature to pass AB 323 before August 31, 2020. Representing our District in the Assembly is Bill Brough. Let him know that you support AB 323 and local papers. His email is assembly-member.brough@assembly.ca.gov. Senator Bates can be reached at senator.bates@senate.ca.gov. 

If you care about our local papers and our local coverage, please let your voice be heard before August 31.  The Capistrano Dispatch, the Dana Point Times and the San Clemente Times deserve our support, as they have continued to support our communities. 

About The Author Capo Dispatch

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