No decision made in controversial paid sick time ballot question



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Even though commissioners sat in a packed, heated meeting for hours Tuesday night, there was no decision made on whether businesses will have to give workers paid sick time. The heated meeting ended just before 10 p.m. Tuesday.

The ballot question asks voters if the county should force companies with more than 15 employees to provide paid sick leave, but Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards now wants to change its wording.

More than 50,000 voters signed a petition to get the ordinance put on the November ballot.

"Personally, I don't think at the county level we should be adopting an ordinance that regulates sick leave between a private employer and an employee," Edwards said.

Mayor Teresa Jacobs has said it's not the time to increase costs for companies that are already struggling, but supporters of the measure said it's the employees who are struggling and need the measure to pass.

Commissioner Jennifer Thompson also proposed a measure that basically asks voters if this is an issue the county should get involved with in the first place. That's also being discussed in the meeting that's expected to last well into the night.

Edwards questions whether voters will have enough time to digest the issue and its impact on small businesses. Those businesses would be required to provide sick leave for employees, including leave to care for sick family members.

Until further workshops are held, it doesn't look like Thompson's charter amendment or the petitioner's mandatory paid sick leave ordinance will have time to go on the ballot.

The county attorney took a half-hour break from Tuesday's meeting to work on Thompson's charter amendment, which would leave sick leave pay up to the decision of employers, but at the last minute the commissioners decided to wait on that amendment for further discussion in November.

What had been decided just before that was the referendum over 50,000 people petitioned for. Since the mandatory paid sick leave petition had some confusing wording in it, it will now have to be changed at a workshop the first week of October and then re-voted on again October 16.

"Well, I think this was unfortunate, and this is a matter now we will have to take to the court system," said Maria McCluskey, paid sick leave supporter.

These decisions came after nearly 75 people signed up to speak for and against a mandatory paid sick leave referendum.

"I was very afraid, very afraid of losing my job because I was the only provider," said resident Emily Walters Ricketts.

"You couldn't pick a worse time to do this," said Harvey Massey, chairman and CEO of Massey Services.

To counter the question, another commissioner wants to include another ballot question about whether county leaders should all-out refrain from getting involved in similar employment issues.