Overview of Orange County’s Paid Sick Time Campaign
In 2012, work-family advocates in Orange County (Florida) collected more than 50,000 signatures to place a paid sick time ordinance on the ballot in November 2012, the first time a citizen-initiated initiative had successfully qualified for the ballot in Orange County. A Better Balance helped to draft the ballot initiative and provided extensive legal research, advice, and support to the Orange County advocates at every step of their campaign.
Although the paid sick time campaign successfully met the County’s ballot initiative requirements, the County Commissioners refused to place the paid sick time law on the November 2012 ballot and delayed until after the election had passed. The paid sick time campaign went to court and won; in February 2013, Orange County was ordered to put the paid sick time initiative to a vote in the next election. As reported in the Orlando Sentinel, “Orange County leaders obeyed a sharply worded judicial ruling and voted 6-1 . . . to put a paid-sick-time referendum on the August 2014 primary ballot. A three-judge panel left room for little else when it ruled earlier this month that the board had violated the ‘plain meaning of its charter’ by blocking the measure from the Nov. 6 election.” In August 2013, the State Attorney Jeff Ashton also announced that several elected officials in Orange County had violated state law in 2012, by deleting their text messages related to the debate over whether to put the paid sick time ordinance to a vote.
Before the paid sick time initiative reached the voters of Orange County, the State Legislature passed a preemption law, signed by Governor Scott in June 2013, to block localities in Florida from passing paid sick time ordinances.
Despite the actions taken by Orange County and state officials to block the paid sick time initiative, voters sent a clear and strong message of support for paid sick time in the August 2014 election. As ordered by the Court, the voters of Orange County finally had the opportunity in August 2014 to vote on the paid sick time ballot initiative, even though the state preemption law prevents it from taking effect. The paid sick time ballot initiative won with 64% of the vote.
In an August 28, 2014 column of the Orlando Sentinel, Scott Maxwell wrote that “Orange County commissioners may have broken the rules by improperly delaying a vote on mandatory sick-time until the Legislature could make sure the vote wouldn't count . . . . But the bipartisan support for the idea of forcing employers togive workers paid time off for illness was so strong in Orange County (64 percent) that activists may be inspired to try again at the statewide level and override the Legislature.”