CA-25 candidates talk COVID, federal aid and AB 5

Christy Smith and Mike Garcia head to special election on May 12, 2020. Courtesy photos

With only two weeks left before the November election, Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, and Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, honed in on their priorities during a virtual forum Tuesday.

The event, hosted by the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, offered candidates a chance to discuss topics such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Assembly Bill 5, transportation and discrimination in the workplace.  

“This is a critical election year, especially for businesses. As the Santa Clarita Valley’s leading advocacy organization, we are pleased to yet again host the only candidate forum for the 25th Congressional District, since it is a nationwide-watched race,” said Ivan Volschenk, managing partner at Evolve Business Strategies, which manages the SCV Chamber of Commerce.

screenshot of SCV Chamber of Commerce forum, with Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, top, Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, bottom left and moderator John Musella.

COVID-19 and local businesses

Undoubtedly, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic will extend beyond the election. To help struggling local businesses and improve the economy, the candidates stood behind bringing additional stimulus payments and funds under the federal Payment Protection Program. 

“It’s time for smart fiscal policy,” said Smith. “We know that there are jobs permanently lost in this economy. So, we need meaningful investment in regional job training programs that correlate to what growth looks like in those industries that might be growing in any given area, and where possible, we need to be partners with our economic development corporations and others who are seeking growth in their own regional economies.” 

Garcia focused on improving federal protection for businesses by including “liability protection” and divergence from China.  

“It should require less dependency on China as a primary supplier to the United States,” he said, adding that he would work with “the federal government (and) partner with the state government. Hopefully state legislators will do the right thing and actually remove (Assembly Bill) 5 and allow us to get back to work, allow individual taxpayers to get the benefits they deserve.” 

Assembly Bill 5

While not part of the chamber’s questions, the candidates delved into AB 5, the 2019 law that reclassifies many independent contractors as employees, following Garcia’s consistent remarks that Smith did not vote to repeal the bill. 

“The irony of Assemblywoman Smith’s position is that she’s had the ability to repeal AB 5, which actually would have avoided losing hundreds of thousands of jobs in the last six months in the midst of the COVID environment, but she chose to vote and not repeal that bill,” he said. 

Smith said the California Chamber of Commerce and other chambers throughout the state took a neutral position on the legislation at the time of AB 5’s passage. 

“And the reason for that was clear: AB 5 was a legislative response to the Dynamex Supreme Court decision in California in April,” she said. “Dynamex fundamentally restructured and rewrote California labor law, leaving every local small business potentially exposed to frivolous classification lawsuits.” 

Smith has since co-authored fixes to the legislation, including AB 323 and AB 2257. 

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