ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Supporters of adding a paid sick-time measure on the November ballot were dressed in black Tuesday at the Orange County Commission meeting. Proponents of the ordinance laid flowers before the county commission to symbolize what they said was the death of democracy.
A three-judge panel sided with a community effort to put the issue to voters, but another deadline to get the ballot language in is looming.
WFTV found out unless the county responds by Tuesday, the issue will not be on the Nov. 6 ballot, which could mean taxpayers end up footing the bill for a special election on the hot-button issue.
Supporters want the county to force companies with more than 15 employees to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 37 hours worked.
But business leaders across the county have declared the sick-time ordinance a job killer.
Supporters said they may even push for the special election.
“If Orange County doesn’t timely get this ordinance before the voters before the November election, this may lead to a special election if they lose the legal battle, which could cost taxpayers $2 million," WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said.
"We should not believe in democracy because every time we stand up to speak you will stand in the way to shut us up and we are sick of it," said a supporter.
One after another, speakers lashed out the county commission, accusing it of silencing the more than 50,000 voters who signed a petition to get the ordinance on the November 6 ballot.
The mayor and commissioners are concerned that summary language written by proponents that would appear on ballots would confuse voters.
Mayor Teresa Jacobs is against the ordinance, but agrees that the language is misleading.
"We've been hearing all this testimony about how people shouldn't have to come to work when they're sick, but it goes way beyond that if I can travel up to Las Vegas to take a friend to a dentist appointment and take three days off work, and my employer can't even ask what I was doing, that goes way beyond sick time, and that's how loosely this is written," Jacobs said.
Two different studies found two different outcomes if the sick time initiative becomes a reality. One found it will save money by cutting turnover costs by nearly $38 million a year. It could also save about $7 million a year in health care costs by reducing emergency room visits. But, the second study said the sick leave would cost businesses between $70 million and $82 million and more than half of the affected businesses would see a drop in profits.