SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California workers will soon get a minimum of five days of paid sick leave per year, instead of three, under a new law signed Wednesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The law, which takes effect in January, also increases the amount of sick leave workers can carry over to the following year. Newsom said this demonstrates that prioritizing the health and well-being of workers “is of the utmost importance to California’s future.”
“Too many people still have to choose between skipping a day of pay and caring for themselves or their family members when they get sick,” Newsom said in a statement announcing his action.
It’s one of more than a dozen bills signed Wednesday by the Democratic governor. He has until mid-October to respond to all the texts sent to him this year. He can sign, veto, or let bills become law without his signature.
Beyond preventing workers from choosing between taking a day off or getting paid, supporters of sick leave legislation say it will help curb the spread of illness and ensure employees can be productive at work. But the California Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses across the state, said it would be a burden on small businesses.
“Far too many small employers simply cannot absorb this new cost, especially when considered in the context of all other paid leave and benefits in California, and they will have to cut jobs, cut wages or raise prices to meet this mandate,” Jennifer Barrera, the group’s president, said in a statement.
The law was part of several major labor initiatives in the Legislature this year, including proposals to raise health care workers’ wages and allow legislative staff to unionize. Newsom has already signed legislation to raise the minimum wage for fast food workers to $20 an hour. But he vetoed a bill Saturday that would have provided unemployment benefits to striking workers, saying the fund the state would use was approaching $20 billion in debt.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Council of the West, which supported the sick leave legislation, said the law would help prevent the spread of deadly diseases.
“Five paid sick days are a step in the right direction and workers will be less likely to be forced to risk their livelihoods to do the right thing and stay home when they are sick because of this proposed law,” said Andrea Zinder, president of the group’s local chapter. 324 chapter, said in a statement.
Newsom also signed a law Wednesday prohibiting local government from manually counting ballots in most cases, a direct response to a rural Northern California county’s plan to stop using machines to count votes .
The Shasta County Board of Supervisors, controlled by a conservative majority, voted earlier this year to terminate its contract with Dominion Voting Systems, a company that has been the subject of unfounded fraud allegations pushed by the former Republican President Donald Trump and his allies. County leaders said there was a loss of public confidence in the company’s machines.
At the time, local leaders did not have a plan for how the county would conduct future elections for its 111,000 registered voters. The county was preparing to count ballots by hand for its next election on Nov. 7, 2023, to fill school board and fire district board seats and decide the fate of two ballot measures.
The new law, which takes effect immediately, puts an end to Shasta County officials’ plans. The only exceptions provided by law are for regular elections with fewer than 1,000 eligible registered voters and special elections where there are fewer than 5,000 eligible voters.
Assembly member Gail Pellerin, a Santa Cruz Democrat who authored the law and a former local elections official, said the law creates necessary guardrails around elections. The law also requires local governments to use state-certified voting machines.
The legislation “ensures that no California voter will be disenfranchised because of the actions and decisions of misinformed political actors,” she said in a statement.
The legislation divided the rural county. Shasta County Clerk Cathy Darling Allen, a Democrat, called the law “a common-sense protection for all California voters.”
Although the county got rid of its Dominion voting machines, local leaders gave it permission to purchase the equipment needed to comply with federal laws for voters with disabilities. The purchased system, manufactured by Hart InterCivic, includes scanners capable of electronically tabulating votes. The equipment will be used to tabulate votes in upcoming elections, Darling Allen said.
Shasta County Board of Supervisors Chairman Patrick Henry Jones told The Associated Press in September that the county would sue to block the law, adding that state officials “cannot guarantee that these machines have not been manipulated.” Jones did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Newsom signing the bill.
Although manual ballot counting occurs in some parts of the United States, it typically occurs in small jurisdictions with a small number of registered voters. However, hand counting is commonly used in post-election testing to verify that machines are counting ballots correctly, but only a small portion of ballots are counted manually.
Sophie Austin is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-reported issues. Follow Austin on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter: @sophieadanna