Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Wednesday legislation that will ensure cheerleaders for professional sports teams receive the minimum wage, workers' compensation and other benefits.
He also approved a bill that will make it easier for people to pay parking violations in installments, an attempt to ease the debt associated with unpaid tickets.
The cheerleader measure designates them as employees, rather than independent contractors, under California law. That means they are entitled to paid sick leave, meal and rest breaks and other rights afforded to most workers in hourly jobs.
In recent years, cheerleaders for the Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills have sued the teams, alleging that their employers withheld pay, did not reimburse mandatory expenses and otherwise violated labor laws.
The law's author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), said she hoped the measure, which takes effect Jan. 1, would prompt the National Football League to institute similar protection for all its teams.
"Obviously [the law] protects the cheerleaders in California," Gonzalez said in an interview, "but this is a nationwide problem."
Legislators in New York are considering a proposal similar to California's law, which is AB 202.
Gonzalez was a cheerleader in high school and at Stanford University. She said she considered becoming a professional cheerleader after college, "but I realized the cost to do it — between time and gas and everything they required, compared to compensation, which at that time was $50 a game — was just ridiculous."
Brown was a high school cheerleader as well, at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco.
Also going into effect next year is the parking tickets law, which will allow local governments to set up installment plans for people who cannot pay their fines all at once.
Currently, such payment plans are offered only after a person appeals a violation.
The legislation comes amid a growing debate over of traffic fines, which can skyrocket with surcharges and extra fees for delinquent payments. Civil rights groups say such violations disproportionately hurt poor people, who can face a spiral of debt, license suspension and vehicle impoundment for minor infractions.
Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) said he offered the measure, AB 1151, to help alleviate the financial burdens of his downtown constituents.
"The reality of poor people in my district is: When you get fined, you're being challenged with paying rent, paying food or paying a fine," Santiago said.
"I wanted to figure out the easiest method to help people in my community to be responsible and pay their tickets, while helping them to be able to make their bills," he said.
The state budget signed by Brown last month includes an 18-month amnesty program for people with unpaid tickets, which would reduce outstanding debts by half for those who qualify.
The governor also signed AB 774 by Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael), which will allow beer-tasting events to be held at certified farmers markets.
And he approved a measure designating lace lichen, commonly known as Spanish moss, as California's official lichen (a combination of algae and fungus).
That measure, AB 1528, was by the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife.
Staff writer Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento contributed to this report.