Gaetz wants new rule on legislative residency requirement

Article Courtesy of The Tampa Bay Times

By Mary Ellen Klas

Published October 2, 2013


Sen. Don Gaetz told Senate leaders on Monday that it is time to end the confusion over where a legislator can live while representing a district, announcing that he hopes to persuade the House to adopt a joint rule that will clarify the current requirement.
Gaetz, R-Niceville, would not elaborate what the requirement will be except to say “any rules that we have have to be rooted firmly in law.”
Current rules require that a legislator only be a registered voter in the district he or she represents, not have his homestead there. It is not clear whether the new rules will require that the homestead be in their district either.
“It’s not the British parliament, where you get to move to anywhere there is an open seat. You ought to be going to grocery store, an synagogue and church among the people that you represent. That’s what a representative democracy is about.”
He said that “any rules that we have have to be rooted firmly in law” but dismissed any suggestion that they would seek a new statute or constitutional amendment.
“Why use a jackhammer when a tackhammer will do the job?’’ he said. A Senate rule can be only enforced by the Senate, leaving it up to the body to dictate the reprimand and punishment.
Gaetz noted that the current requirement “may have been loose enough so that people may have had an honest misunderstanding as to what it means to live among the people you represent.”
The issue has many legislators anxious as redistricting last year forced many of them to set up temporary residence in districts that were outside of their original home territory. Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, came under such fire that this summer she changed her voter registration to a condominium in Delray Beach after listing her residence as a condo Fort Lauderdale for the last year. 
Sen. Lisbeth Benacquisto R-Fort Myers, changed her voter registration in July from a condo to her residence to avoid similar scrutiny.