What is going on in Orange County, Florida?
For anyone paying attention to the effort to establish an earned sick day standard in the Sunshine State, this is a legitimate question. The events of the past few days have been confusing at best — and, quite simply, they defy reason and threaten to subvert democracy.
First, more than 43,000 Orange County voters pledged their support for putting an earned sick days proposal on the November 6th ballot. Soon after, that petition was certified — officially qualifying the measure for the November ballot.
In accordance with the county charter, the Orange County Commission had two options: adopt the proposal as an ordinance or refer it to the ballot.
But, just as the commission was slated to decide, Mayor Teresa Jacobs and county commissioners proposed an ill-conceived countermeasure to be placed on the ballot alongside the earned sick days proposal. If passed, the countermeasure would invalidate the earned sick days ordinance — and all other countywide employment laws related to employee benefits and protections. The county commission and the mayor got a lot of heat from the community for this, but they would not back down.
Still with me?
On Tuesday, the mayor and the county commission met to consider both measures.* For more than six hours, they heard compelling testimony in support of earned sick days from Orange County workers, residents, businesses and advocates. But, instead of listening and honoring the will of voters, the commissioners chose to delay consideration of the measure for a month to clarify its language — ensuring it won’t get on the November ballot because the printing deadline is next week.
The commission’s callous and subversive move was designed to deny voters the opportunity to approve a common sense proposal that would protect the county’s working families, public health and the local economy.
Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story. The Orange County earned sick time coalition immediately filed an emergency request for a hearing on the commission’s failure to either pass or put to a vote the earned sick time measure within a given timeframe — a mandatory duty according to the county’s charter. Now, a three-judge panel will determine whether commissioners will be required to follow the law by putting earned sick time on the ballot.
So, what is happening in Orange County? Deliberate disregard for democracy. But there’s still a chance at a happy ending. Workers, advocates and voters continue to call on the mayor and commissioners to let voters decide the fate of earned sick time in the county. Tell your family and friends in Orange County to take action today — before it’s too late.
Vicki Shabo is the director of work and family programs at the National Partnership for Women & Families.
* Also on Tuesday, a judge threw out the organized business lobby’s lawsuit challenging the ballot language. But that’s another chapter in the story!