Orange County primary election looms

Voters will decide whether workers can get mandated paid sick leave in Orange County, which would increase benefits for workers caring for sick loved ones at home.

Voters will decide whether workers can get mandated paid sick leave in Orange County, which would increase benefits for workers caring for sick loved ones at home.

Tim Freed

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The start of August means campaigning and early voting across the state as the primary election on Aug. 26 draws near, with employee paid sick time and a half-cent tax to pay for schools up for a vote.

A vote that would give paid sick leave to employees of businesses with 15 or more workers is on the August ballot. The bill would also allow workers to care for sick loved ones for up to 56 hours in a year, built up at a rate of one hour of leave time per 37 hours worked. It would also prevent employees from being fired for taking time off work while sick. Florida Republican lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott had passed a bill to ban such a citizen-fronted ballot initiative in 2013, but a three-judge panel overruled them, allowing voters to make the decision.

A half-penny sales tax that funds Orange County school projects will expire in 2015, and a new one is up for a vote. It would pay for $1.28 billion in renovations and replacements of current building equipment and $880 million in maintenance projects to fix roofs and air conditioning systems, plus $760 million to build new schools and $80 million to update technology. It has already found support in the business community in Winter Park, with Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Patrick Chapin saying about the area’s students, “It’s important from an economic development perspective to invest in these future innovators, entrepreneurs and community leaders.”

Local government positions up for grabs include the Orange County Commission Seats for Districts 2, 4 and 6, where incumbent Jennifer Thompson will look to win another term as the District 4 Commissioner. The Orange County Public School Board Seats for Districts 1, 2 and 3 will be up for election this year as well, along with the Orange County Clerk of Courts job and the Orange County Judge positions for Groups 10 and 15.

Republican Congressman John Mica is also up for reelection in Congressional District 7. He faces three Republican challengers in the upcoming primary: Don Oehlrich, Kelly Shirley and David Smith.

The Orange County School Board Chair seat will be up for grabs in the general election on Nov. 4.

Candidate Joshua Katz hopes to win over the School Board District 1 Seat from current board member Joie Cadle, gaining a great deal of support overnight after his presentation on TEDx regarding what he called “the toxic culture of education.”

Katz said he wants to get rid of standardized tests that don’t accurately measure students, teachers or schools, blaming the private education companies that create the tests.

“Standardized tests are a good way to begin digging into data; they’re a horrible way to determine whether or not a teacher can buy food or pay rent,” Katz said.

Cadle, who is in her third consecutive term as the Orange County School Board District 1 seat, said that what Katz proposes to do if he wins isn’t possible, and that it’s incredibly difficult to change the minds of lawmakers in Tallahassee. She also said that while the standardized testing could be improved, that tests in school prepare students for all of the important tests they’ll encounter in life ahead.

Early voting in Orange County runs from Friday, Aug. 15, to Sunday, Aug. 24. Orlando voting locations include the Alafaya Branch Library, the Southwest Branch Library, the Supervisor of Elections Office, the Renaissance Senior Center, the Washington Branch Park Library, the South Creek Library, the Southeast Branch Library, the Hiawassee Branch Library and the Herndon Branch Library.

Other Orange County locations include the Winter Park Library in Winter Park, the Apopka Community Center & VFW in Apopka and the West Oaks Branch Library in Ocoee.

Voting centers are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and voters must present a photo and signature ID.