Collin Anderson of the Washington Free Beacon explains how an overly restrictive California economic regulation is hurting the state’s ability to cope with COVID-19.

Democratic California governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday rebuffed calls to suspend a controversial labor law that experts say hinders the state’s pandemic response and hurts vulnerable workers.

State and federal legislators, small business owners, and more than 150 economists and political scientists have urged Newsom to suspend California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), the controversial 2019 bill that limited companies’ ability to classify workers as independent contractors. They argue that the law has impeded the state economy and burdened health care systems already strained by coronavirus. Many hospitals, particularly in rural communities, rely on independent contractors to provide health services, as they lack the resources to support full-time employees. And as thousands of Californians face unemployment due to the pandemic, AB5 makes it nearly impossible for workers to take on temporary jobs from home.

Despite these concerns, Newsom, who did not respond to a request for comment, praised AB5 during a Wednesday press conference. He touted the law as an example of the state’s national leadership.

“The state of California prides itself on being a national leader as it relates to protecting our workers from misclassification,” Newsom said. He added that the state is “advancing the cause in righting those wrongs and continuing to transition in the implementation of AB5,” indicating that the law will remain in effect for the foreseeable future.

Though AB5 is unique to California, backlash over its enforcement could have national implications. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden endorsed the law in March, calling it “ground-breaking.” Biden’s support for the law—which was written by the AFL-CIO—could place the presumptive Democratic nominee at odds with disgruntled Californians as he woos the country’s largest labor union.

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