TALLAHASSEE — A House panel Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that would set residency requirements for local elected officials and candidates for local office but doesn’t include a new way to enforce it.
Though there have been claims of state lawmakers not living in the districts they were elected to represent, the bill sponsor said he could not cite specific examples related to city or county officials.
The Ethics and Elections subcommittee cleared the bill (HB 571) by an 11-0 vote.
Bill sponsor Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, said after the meeting that his bill complements a measure (SB 602) sponsored in the Senate by Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.
“What we’re doing is extending a common definition for residency,” Rodrigues said. “We’re not trying to create a new enforcement mechanism.”
The rules and bills count utility use, where the person gets mail and the address on federal income tax returns, among a total of 20 factors, to determine legal residence.
The Florida Elections Commission is required to investigate candidates’ residency after receiving a sworn complaint. Elected officials’ residency can be challenged through filing a civil complaint.
The bill would not apply to state lawmakers, though each chamber recently passed its own rule that tracks the proposed law.
Latvala and others have bemoaned the legal definition of residency as being “in a gray area.” He had accused Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, of not residing in her South Florida district.
Sachs countered that her residency was reviewed and is no longer in question.
More recently, the residency of Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, has come into question.
Her husband lists his principal residence in county records as a wealthy waterfront South Tampa neighborhood on the other side of the highway from the district his wife represents.
The House bill next heads to the Local and Federal Affairs Committee. The Senate companion unanimously cleared its first committee and will next be considered by that chamber’s Judiciary Committee.