Quinn on paid sick leave, teacher evaluations and forbearance for drivers: No, hopefully, yes

James Vacca, Quinn and James Gennaro (Dana Rubinstein)
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City Council speaker and 2013 mayoral candidate Christine Quinn said she remained opposed to a legislative mandate for paid sick-leave during a City Hall press conference this afternoon, as proponents of the legislation wrapped up a rally outside.

"As I said over a year or so ago now, I think the sponsors and proponents of paid sick leave, their goal is a laudable one," said Quinn. "That said, in the economic environment we are in, small businesses are hanging on by a thread in many cases, and I think although this goal is laudable, it’s not one that I could support because I think it is one that could cost us jobs, and cost us small businesses and their future in these tough economic times."

The paid sick leave proposal, pushed by Councilwoman Gale Brewer, would require that employers "provide a minimum of one hour of paid sick time for every thirty hours worked by an employee."

In recent days, proponents have offered amendments to the legislation to make it more palatable to business-owners. Now, the bill exempts businesses with fewer than five employees from having to provide paid sick leave, but it does require them to to provide up to five days of job protection if a worker or family member falls ill. Also, new businesses with fewer than 20 employees will get a one-year grace period before having to abide by the bill's provisions.

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The legislation is believed to have the support of a veto-proof majority in the City Council, but in order for councilmembers to vote on it, Speaker Quinn, who has opposed the bill since it was first proposed in 2010, must allow it to come up for a vote. Her comments today indicate that she's not yet prepared to do so.

The speaker also declined to throw herself into the teacher-evaluation fray now roiling city and state politics, other than to say she hopes it gets resolved soon.

In order for New York State to get more than $700 million in federal Race-to-the-Top education funding, teachers' unions must agree to a teacher-evaluation system. Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the issue a centerpiece of his State of the City address. Yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo tied a four-percent increase in school aid to an agreement on teacher evaluations.

"I think everyone who is concerned about education, everyone who is concerned about schoolchildren, everyone who is concerned about having enough financial resources to provide a quality education needs to do what they can in their various capacities to get us to an agreement that gets that $60-million-plus into the city’s budget so we can use it in our public schools," Quinn said.

Quinn made her comments during a press conference about three pieces of legislation the Council will vote on today that aim to make the parking experience in New York City less exasperating.

The first bill, which the mayor intends to sign, would freeze late fees on disputed parking tickets until a resolution of the dispute is reached.

As the law now stands, a ticket recipient has 30 days to pay a parking ticket before the city levies late fees, even if the recipient disputes the ticket’s validity. Under the new law, that 30-day clock will begin only after a settlement is reached.

The second bill, which the mayor has yet to decide whether to sign or veto, would forbid the Department of Sanitation from putting glue-laden, hard-to-peel stickers on cars that violate alternate-side parking rules.

"There is no logical reason why a person should get a ticket for violating alternate side and have the sticker affixed to the window," said James Vacca, chair of the Transportation Committee. "And when we had our hearing and we questioned the Sanitation Department officials, their reasoning was almost nonexistent."

The third bill, which the mayor definitely plans to veto, would require ticketing agents to cancel parking tickets issued to car-owners on the verge of paying the meter. The bill would essentially give drivers a five-minute grace period from the time the ticket was issued to prove, with a munimeter receipt, that they were indeed trying to abide by the law.

"If you’re not rolling the dice, if you’re trying to follow the law, if you’re walking to the munimeter, and you're doing everything in your power to do the right thing, you shouldn’t be presented with a ticket," said Councilman James Gennaro, who sponsored the bill. "It just shouldn’t work that way."

The Bloomberg administration opposes the legislation on the grounds that the Department of Sanitation already gives drivers a five-minute grace period, and that the bill would increase conflicts between ticketing agents and drivers.

“It increases the likelihood of on-street confrontations with Traffic Agents and creates a system that is ripe for abuse,” said Bloomberg spokesman Marc LaVorgna, in an emailed statement.