Bill Spells Out Lawmakers' Residency Requirements

By: Andy Alcock; Associated Press Email
By: Andy Alcock; Associated Press Email

Associated Press News Release
April 25, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The Senate passed a bill that seeks to ensure lawmakers actually live in the districts they represent.

The bill passed unanimously Friday specifically spells out the definition of a primary home to make sure lawmakers don't list an address in their district as being their home when they actually live somewhere else.

State law already requires lawmakers live in their district, but questions were raised last year about whether about a half-dozen lawmakers were flouting the law.

By: Andy Alcock
January 9, 2014

Eight to ten percent of state lawmakers don't live in the district they represent.

State Senator Jack Latvala made that claim.

"I believe that the people that we are supposed to represent expect us to live in the districts that elect us," Latvala said.

But he says based on a series of news reports, including on Eyewitness News, it's his belief some of his colleagues don't live in their districts.

"And it became apparent that there were a lot of people not only in the legislature who are playing games with residency, but also in local government," said Latvala.

To put a stop to it, Latvala and State Representative Ray Rodriques are proposing to more clearly define residency under state law.

The bill states candidates for office can claim only one domicile.

And it says factors for a domicile include a homestead exemption, utility usage and the address for registering dependent children for school.

"What I've heard from the public is they're tired of political games and frankly there have been games played in this area," said Rodrigues.

Under Florida's constitution, state lawmakers are self policing when it comes to their own membership.

Latvala says there will be a rule passed to mirror the bill.

The bill doesn't lay out possible punishments for violating the law.

Latvala says it will be up to the courts or other government bodies.

But he has no doubt about what that punishment should be.

"Removal from office is actually the penalty that ought to apply," Latvala said.

If the proposal is passed, it wouldn't go into effect until January 1st, 2015.

Latvala says he didn't want to change the law during the current and already started election cycle.

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