From the News Service of Florida
Legislative leadership wants to know where House and Senate members are when they say they're at home.
With Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, raising questions about a number of Democratic lawmakers living outside the districts they represent, the top attorneys for the House and Senate have been directed to recommend standards for residency.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Ken Detzner will be asked to get a list of where all 160 legislators are registered to vote.
"Neither the House nor the Senate has historically developed a clear set of principles to determine the residency of our members," House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said in letter Wednesday to Latvala. "The recommended guidelines should draw on any past rulings of the House and Senate on this question, as well as decisions from other bodies in related legal contexts."
State law says each legislator "shall be at least twenty-one years of age, an elector and resident of the district from which elected and shall have resided in the state for a period of two years prior to election."
The letter said Gaetz and Weatherford want the voter registration information from Detzner by Sept. 1. No timeframe was set for the review of residency standards by the House general counsel and the Senate general counsel.
"The requirement that each member be an elector within his or her district can be determined by reference to the official records of the Secretary of State," the letter said.
Weatherford and Gaetz added that they intend to outline residency standards based on the general-counsel recommendations and to "review any legally sufficient formal complaint."
Latvala, the chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, has recently expressed concerns about the residency of Democratic Sen. Maria Sachs, as well as Representatives Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, and Hazelle Rogers, D-Lauderdale Lakes.
Latvala has also informed Weatherford's office that he intends to forward a letter he received expressing concerns about the residency of Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee.
A spokesman for Weatherford's office said Wednesday it had yet to receive the letter.
WCTV in Tallahassee reported Tuesday that Williams' owns a homesteaded property outside his district and is partial owner of a property within the district.
Asked by a WCTV reporter where he lived, Williams responded, "Well I'll tell you, it's hard to sleep when you're fighting for District 8."
Tamarac resident Matthew Feiler filed a complaint June 25 with the state Commission on Ethics claiming Sachs "falsely swore" she was qualified for the office, contending she lives in Boca Raton rather than in her adjacent district.
Latvala raised the issue of Sachs' home in April, during the confirmation hearing of Florida Elections Commissioner Barbra Stern. Stern's name, along with that of her mother, Judy Stern, a Broward County lobbyist who is active in South Florida politics, are on the deed of a Fort Lauderdale condominium that Sachs lists as her residence. That condo is in Senate District 34, which Sachs represents. The Boca Raton house is just outside the district.
Last November, Sachs defeated former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale in a fierce campaign.
As another example of questions that have been raised, Rogers, in her financial disclosure documents, reported owning a $30,000 condo within her district and a $150,000 home in District 94, which is Thurston's district.