By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Using a blatant stall tactic this week, the Orange County Commissioners effectively killed a ballot measure aimed at getting earned paid sick days in the area.
The group behind the citizen-based initiative, Citizens for a Greater Orange County, collected 50,000 signatures, which more than earned them a spot on the ballot. Obtaining 50,000 signatures is no small task. It takes a lot of time, money and planning. However, big businesses, such as Disney and Darden Restaurants, lobbied local lawmakers to stop the initiative.
A judge eventually ordered the county to put the measure on November’s ballot — but gave them 20 days to do it.
The problem: in less than 20 days, the ballots would need to go to the printers.
So, this week, the County Commissioners stalled voting on moving the ballot forward, which means voters won’t even get the chance to voice whether they agree with the changes.
The hearing was another bizarre turn in one of the most ferocious political fights in Central Florida over the proposal, which if approved by the voters, would require many employers would have to provide paid sick leave to workers starting next year.
Earlier in the day, Orange commissioners took no action on the initiative after a brief but dramatic public hearing. Protesters dressed in black left flowers in front of Mayor Teresa Jacobs’ desk, saying the foliage represented “the death of democracy.”
“I don’t see a board of commissioners,” said Holly Fussell, 19. “I see a board of special interest groups.”
Jacobs defended the commission’s position, saying it was the county’s responsibility to make sure the ballot title and summary were clear and that more time was needed for that task.
Jacobs had not been the biggest fan of the initiative all along. She even considered introducing a competing measure aimed at undermining earned paid sick days, if it passed.
A few days ago, Scott Maxwell from the Sentinel called this ongoing saga “shameful” and commented that democracy had been “denied”:
Instead of listening to citizens and following the rules, a handful of politicians listened to the deep-pocketed interests who so often call the shots in this town.
They also did the bidding of a hypocritical chamber-of-commerce leader who gorges at the public trough — while asking government to leave him alone.
These politicians not only defied the populace, but also the legal advice of their own attorney.
He recently wrote that this would eventually haunt all of the lawmakers that thwarted the effort.