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Judge hints he’s open to revisiting sick leave ruling

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

State District Judge Alan Malott hinted Wednesday that he may be open to revisiting his earlier ruling that the entire text of Albuquerque’s proposed sick leave ordinance must appear on the Oct. 3 ballot if the city can’t do it in a legible font.

“In this particular circumstance, I have some concerns about practicality, which often is not addressed in the law,” he said.

Malott has already ruled that the city must print the entire seven-page ordinance – and not a summary – on the ballot. But backers of the proposed Healthy Workforce Ordinance argue that the only way the city can do that is to print it in a font that is so small that it would be difficult to read. They want the city to include a summary on the ballot and to make the entire ordinance available in voting booths.

Healthy Workforce ABQ, the OLÉ Education Fund and three other plaintiffs had asked the state Court of Appeals to intervene in the case before the lawsuit was resolved. The appellate court refused.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Christopher Tebo, an attorney representing the city, argued, in part, that the font size of the ballot question is irrelevant because the court had already ruled that the entire ordinance must appear on the ballot.

Malott disagreed, saying he still has the authority to ensure that his ruling is properly carried out.

“Given the action or inaction of the appellate courts, the ruling is full text,” Malott said. “My issues now are, will the full text fit? And if it fits, will it be legible? Those are what I’m concerned with at this point.”

The Healthy Workforce Ordinance would require Albuquerque employers to provide paid sick time off to workers. If voters approve it, the ordinance will apply to full-time, part-time and temporary workers at any business with a physical presence in Albuquerque.

Opponents of the ordinance argue that it would hurt businesses because of higher costs and record-keeping requirements. Supporters argue that the ordinance would ensure that workers don’t have to choose between their paychecks and caring for themselves or a loved one.

Malott said the plaintiffs in the case have a right to delve into the city’s representation that it can fit the entire ordinance onto the Oct. 3 ballot. He ordered the city to produce its draft ballot and to make City Clerk Natalie Howard available for questioning by plaintiffs’ attorneys.

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