By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Progressives in Orlando were able to win a tough battle and place a mandated earned sick pay measure on the November ballot there, but the county’s mayor is considering a competing resolution that would undermine it.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said today she would set a Sept. 11 hearing to put an anti-regulation measure to voters this fall that if approved would supersede a sick-time proposal on the same ballot.
Jacobs said the competing measure, which would bar government from regulating employee benefitssuch as sick time, would not interfere with the sick-time proposal driven by a citizen-petition campaign. Both would appear on the Nov. 6 ballot in Orange County.
If approved, the measure would require employers in Orlando to provide paid time off to workers who are sick or are taking care of a sick family member. This would apply to both full-time and part-time employees. Under the terms of the ballot measure, employees would earn one hour of sick time for every 37 hours they work, with a 56-hour cap.
Getting measures on a ballot through citizen petitions is incredibly difficult. However, the groups behind the earned sick pay measure were able to collect enough petitions in time. According the Sentinel, the groups had to collect 43,605 citizen petitions in order to get the measure on the November 6 ballot. They ended up collecting “73,841 overall, of which 50,364 were signed by qualified voters,” the Sentinel reported.
However, opponents to the measure, such as Jacobs, say it will be bad for businesses in Orlando and could even lead to job losses. Large employers in Orlando, including Disney, have been among the opponents.
And the big-business lobby has been significant. According to the Sentinel, “after three days of Disney lobbying, five of six Orange County commissioners penned this week similarly worded memos urging [Jacobs] to take the maximum 30 days allowed before they have to order that the question be placed on the ballot.”
Disney officials had previously said the company would await the fate of the ballot drive before taking any stance.
“We will reserve comment on the initiative until, if and when it makes it on the ballot,” said spokesman Bryan Malenius. “With that said, we are concerned about any initiative that could negatively impact jobs or efforts to further diversify our economy.”
But visitor logs at the county show that Disney lobbyist Sharon Smoley met with Jacobs’ chief of staff and Newton on Monday to discuss “charter questions.”
The next day, the logs indicate, Smoley signed in to meet with all the commissioners and their aides to discuss “possible agenda items.”
Commissioner Scott Boyd said he discussed the issue with Smoley and that she referred to Disney’s opposition to the measure. But Boyd said it was his idea to seek a full 30-day review so residents could hear more about the proposal.
Commissioner Fred Brummer said he did not end up meeting with Smoley but called her later to urge the company “to get actively involved” in opposing it.
Progressives and workers’ rights groups are also trying to get a similar measure passed through Miami Dade County Commissioners for restaurant workers in that county.