SACRAMENTO, CA — Assemblymember Blanca Rubio’s (D-Baldwin Park) Assembly Bill 323 passed the Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee this morning by a unanimous 5-0 vote.
AB 323 requires state agencies to give preference to local news organizations, specifically ethnic media and community organizations, in contracts and subcontracts for marketing and outreach advertising services. It also extends the newspaper carrier exemption from Dynamex for two additional years, allowing news outlets to stabilize from COVID-19 losses.
More than a dozen California newspapers have folded or suspended operations in the last six months as a result of lost advertising revenue during the pandemic, on top of a decade of devastating financial declines.
“A functioning democracy is dependent on a well-informed constituency,” said Assemblymember Rubio in her presentation of AB 323 to the Committee. “The demise of newspapers will mean many lost jobs, and will leave many communities without local journalism.”
“As an immigrant to this country that represents an extremely diverse section of Los Angeles County, I am particularly concerned about the future of ethnic media. In my district alone, I am aware of at least 46 ethnic news publications that provide service in my community,” added Assemblymember Rubio. “In fact, my Father, who is now 80 years old, has relied on La Opinion as his primary source of news for many years. The decline in community news is not only costing us jobs, but it is also harming both ethnic communities and seniors who are accustomed to getting news from physical papers.”
Numerous witnesses spoke in favor of AB 323, including California Black Media, the Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed), and the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Witnesses urged the committee to consider the importance of community journalism as the state addresses COVID recovery.
Arturo Carmona, representing La Opinion, shared with the committee the impact of newspaper closures on communities of color, asking for a lifeline in “their great time of need.”
AB 323 is now headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.
Assemblywoman Rubio represents the 48th Assembly District, which is comprised of the cities of Azusa, Baldwin Park, Bradbury, City of Industry, Covina, Duarte, El Monte, Glendora, Irwindale, Monrovia, West Covina, and the San Gabriel Valley unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, including Bassett, Charter Oak, Citrus, East Arcadia, Ramona, Valinda and West La Puente.