Never one to let a contentious issue miss her magic wand of reason, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs today released a statement – and an apparent "My Word" Orlando Sentinel column for future publishing – late in today's primary news cycle. At issue, of course, is the fairly explosive (by local standards) fight to ensure earned sick time for Orange County workers at mid-to-large sized companies. We've covered the initiative in earnest before, but yesterday's revelation that the folks at Organize Now and Citizens for a Greater Orange County had surpassed expectations and actually achieved their ballot goal to get the issue on the Nov. 6 ballot has caused Jacobs – who probably sunburns easily? – to come in from the pool and type a missive declaring that she in no way wants it to look like she supports helping the underpaid. It's all about big business, see, as that's where the tax dollars to build the toll roads come from! Now, after being quoted in the Sentinel saying that she sees a path for sick days to the ballot, we're in serious backpedal mode. How far back? Like change-the-county-charter back. Let's see how this sort of above-the-law posturing floats, shall we? Jacobs' rant is below:
August 14, 2012
MY WORD: Teresa Jacobs, Orange County Mayor
There is considerable confusion about the petition drive for a sick-leave ordinance. In answering a reporter’s question last week, I unwittingly added to it.
Allow me to clarify my position and the petition process. I do not support this measure, as I’ve consistently said.
Now is hardly the time to increase costs for companies struggling to stay afloat in this harsh economy. Employers face enough regulations and economic challenges without government micro-managing their personnel policies. Orange County also would be the only county in the state with mandated paid sick days. This would put us at a disadvantage when competing with surrounding counties for new businesses, and also could cost us existing businesses.
Further, Orange County Government is in no position to become a de facto human resources department for thousands of private employers. We are already struggling to maintain services in the face of large budget cuts I’ve had to enact since taking office. However, I also have a duty to follow the county charter.
The charter sets requirements for those petitioning for the enactment of an ordinance. The required number of signatures must be gathered and certified by the Supervisor of Elections. Next, the Board of County Commissioners must hold a public hearing within 30 days. The Board has only two options at that hearing. It can enact the ordinance. If not, it must adopt a resolution putting the ordinance before voters in the next referendum which occurs at least 45 days after the resolution is approved.
According to the County Charter, the Board cannot reject the ordinance, and also vote to keep it off the ballot.
A reporter asked me last Tuesday if the ordinance could appear on the Nov. 6 ballot if the petitions were gathered and certified by the end of last week. I said it likely would.
Some incorrectly interpreted that as an endorsement of the ordinance. I simply was referring to the timeframe laid out in the charter.
Lastly, the Supervisor of Elections plays a role in this process because he determines the deadline for sending ballots to the printer. Federal law requires that he do this in time to get the ballots back and mailed out 45 days before the election.
As our Charter is currently written, it is conceivable that our Board could be forced to adopt a resolution directing the Supervisor of Elections to place a petition initiative on the ballot without providing the Supervisor adequate time to comply with the Federal timeframes. For this reason, I will be proposing a charter amendment to address this potential problem.
I hope this clears up any confusion regarding my position on this issue and our Board's obligation under the county charter.