First, such freezes are often announced but rarely enforced. Gov. Schwarzenegger's own hiring freeze was porous, as thousands of workers were hired afterwards.
Gov. Brown's office, in a statement, says this freeze will be "comprehensive, applying to vacant, seasonal, and full and part-time positions. It prohibits hiring outside contractors to compensate for the hiring freeze, converting part-time positions into full-time positions and transferring employees between agencies and departments."
But the Brown order also has exemptions, in that it "permits agencies to fill positions that are critical to public safety, revenue collection and other core functions, in cases where these essential duties cannot be carried out at current staffing levels."
The other reason to be cynical about "hiring freezes"? There's little evidence they save more than very small amounts of money. And the state faces a persistent budget crisis with a shortfall estimated at $25 billion. And California's problems don't include having too many state workers--the state is one of the leanest in terms of number of workers per capita in the country.
This hiring freeze, like the ones that came before, is political symbolism--not management.