UPDATE! OC Commissioners to talk domestic partners benefits

By : AlejandPate
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Orange County mayor Teresa Jacobs has talked the talk about domestic partner benefits, and now the county is taking the first steps in walking the walk. Steve Triggs, Manager of the County's Communication Division, has confirmed that a county policy to offer domestic partner benefits to county employees will be a discussion item at the Board of Commissioners' April 19 meeting. 

Triggs said few details are available yet, and they aren't sure what time the discussion will take place, but the proposal will be presented by County Attorney Jeff Newton and Manager of Human Resources Ricardo Daye. 

â┚¬Å”I promised to bring the issue of domestic partner benefits forward early in my administration,â┚¬Â Jacobs said. 

Attorney Mary Meeks has been working with the county's legal department and human resources leaders in an advisory capacity on the domestic partner benefits issue. She said she believes the measure will be voted on April 19. 

â┚¬Å”We are cautiously optimistic that it will pass,â┚¬Â Meeks said. â┚¬Å”The mayor is supportive of it and is the driving force to make this happen and has specifically requested the community's support for it.â┚¬Â

Meeks added that it's important for the community to write and call their commissioners, and to show up in support of the benefits at the April 19 meeting. 

â┚¬Å”There are new members on board who weren't there for the [county's recent approval of a gay-inclusive Human Rights Ordinance] so we don't have that to gauge as a measure of support on gay rights issues,â┚¬Â she said. 

When advising county officials on the proposed benefits, Meeks said she's focusing on equality and improving Orange County's appeal to businesses. 

â┚¬Å”Taxpayers pay for insurance benefits for county employees and their spouses and it's only fair that taxpayers make same benefits available to county's gay employees,â┚¬Â Meeks said. â┚¬Å”Secondly, the positive economic impact in that having these types of policies attracts capital investment from high-tech and high-wage companies to come to Orlando and Orange County.â┚¬Â

She said she's also touching on economical impact to taxpayers in a county that shells out about $100 million for healthcare benefits. 

â┚¬Å”The estimate of the financial impact is based on a review of the sixty or so other entities in Florida that currently offer domestic partner benefits and the numbers of gay employees who use the benefits,â┚¬Â she said. â┚¬Å”Those numbers are usually pretty small, less than one percent.â┚¬Â 

Meeks said those percentages have not been translated into specific dollar amounts for Orange County.

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