Judge Keeps Sick-Leave Proposal Off Ballot

     ALBUQUERQUE (CN) — A state judge Monday refused to order a county clerk to put on the November ballot a citizens’ initiative requiring virtually all businesses in Albuquerque to offer paid sick leave — even though proponents had gathered enough signatures.
     Healthy Workforce ABQ, The OLÉ Education Fund and three voters sued Albuquerque and Bernalillo on Friday in Bernalillo County Court, demanding the county clerk put their Healthy Workforce Initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot.
     The county clerk must send the ballot to the printer by 5 p.m. today, Tuesday.
     Healthy Workforce ABQ claimed the county refused to put their measure on the ballot with the bogus excuse that there was not enough room for it.
     On Monday, the state’s Second Judicial District Judge Alan Malott refused to order the county to put the initiative on the ballot, though petitioners had gathered almost 25,000 signatures — far more than the 10,000 they needed.
     At issue was whether the initiative had to be listed in its entirety on the ballot, or only in summary.
     Healthy Workforce said in their Notice of Intent to file the petition that it should appear on the ballot in summary form because the Bernalillo County ballot is one page long. “The Bernalillo County Clerk is unable to extend it to two pages for financial reasons and because the risk of tabulation error increases when a second page is added to the ballot,” the complaint stated.
     Malott also ruled Monday that when the initiative does go to voters, it must be published on the ballot in its entirety.
     The sick-leave law would apply to all businesses with a physical presence in Albuquerque, for full-time, part-time and temporary workers.
     It would require businesses to issue one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked; which could be used for the employee’s illness or that of a family member, or for medical care or absence due to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking; that employers with 40 or more employees allow workers to use up to 56 hours of accrued sick leave each year; that smaller employers allow up to 40 hours of accrued sick leave to be used per year; and enforcement clauses, including private right of action.
     The Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce rejoiced in the judge’s order, saying it expected the issue to appear in a 2017 ballot, and that the delay would allow the public to be informed about the initiative. Chamber of Commerce President Terri Cole told The Albuquerque Journal that the ordinance would drive small companies out of business because of increased costs and “onerous record-keeping requirements.”
     OLÉ Education Fund spokeswoman Rebecca Glenn called the ruling disappointing, and said her group is “still exploring our legal options.”

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