Smith joins state legislators in calling for $20M in budget to support arts

FILE PHOTO Assemblywoman Christy Smith represents the 38th Assembly District, which includes Agua Dulce, Castaic, Santa Clarita, Simi Valley and the northern San Fernando Valley. 08-16-19 BOBBY BLOCK / THE SIGNAL

Assemblywomen Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, and Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, announced Thursday they’re seeking an additional $20 million from the state budget for arts nonprofit groups amid the implementation of Assembly Bill 5. 

In a letter to the Assembly Committee on Budget, the legislators requested a one-time allocation of several million dollars in the 2020-21 state budget to the California Arts Council to fund a grants program for small, community nonprofit arts organizations that are transitioning their contractors into employees to comply with AB 5. 

The law, which took effect Jan. 1, aims to reclassify more than a million working people in California who have been independent contractors, instead classifying them as employees. 

Gonzalez, who authored the law, has expressed that this request is part of her efforts to amend the law, including the removal of the 35-article limit for writers and freelancers. 

The $20-million request will help “ensure we can more quickly transition to an economy that treats all workers fairly and with dignity,” Gonzalez said in a news release Thursday. 

Smith said helping workers is one of her priorities this year. 

“One of my priorities this year is working with colleagues, employers and workers to address the implementation of AB 5,” she said in a statement. “I thank Assemblywoman Gonzalez for her attention to assisting nonprofit organizations and look forward to our ongoing work in meeting the challenges of transitioning business models.”

In 2019, California’s arts funding placed 26th out of the 50 states in per capita funding, according to a report by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. 

State lawmakers’ additional funding request comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that his state budget would include $20 million for AB 5 enforcement efforts, including $17.5 million for the Department of Industrial Relations for “investigations of labor law violations” and “address workload(s),” as well as $3.4 million for staff training of the mandated employment test needed under AB 5 to determine who is considered an employee. 

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