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Latvala renews crusade against legislators who lie about where they live

by John Kennedy | January 9th, 2014

Sen. Jack Latvala has renewed his crusade against what he says may be as many as 16 Florida lawmakers who don’t really live in the districts they represent.

Latvala, R-Clearwater, unveiled legislation Thursday that would require candidates for all public offices to declare a single “domicile” — with a laundry list of qualifiers that could be used to determine whether the candidate truly lives there.

“I believe that the people…expect us to live in the districts from which they elect us,” Latvala said.

Latvala has been focused on toughening the state’s residency requirement since Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, defeated his favored candidate, Republican Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale, last fall.

Sachs and her husband, condo lawyer Peter Sachs, own a home west of Boca Raton that is outside the boundaries of her Senate District 34.  As a candidate, Sachs said her actual residence was a 740-foot condo in Fort Lauderdale owned by a friend, a claim that drew more ethics and legal complaints since dismissed by the Florida Senate Rules Committee and Ethics Commission.

Sachs subsequently changed her voter registration to a two-bedroom, two-bath Delray Beach condo a few blocks from the ocean — but within District 34.

Latvala said it was “coincidental” that the half-dozen Florida lawmakers he cited as living outside their districts were all Democrats when he first began demanding a stricter standard.

On Thursday, he said that as many as 16 legislators — representing both major parties — may be claiming one address and actually living in another.

“There are people of both parties guilty of this,” Latvala said. “It’s a government trust issue.”

House sponsor is Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero.

Latvala, though, said the legislation being proposed may in the end not directly affect lawmakers. A joint House-Senate rule is expected to be unveiled before the session beginning in March that would incorporate many of the same qualifiers Latvala and Rodrigues seek.

Meanwhile, missing from the proposed legislation is any penalty for failing to meet the stricter standard. Latvala said that’s something that may still be added to the bill — presumably giving state attorneys some motive for pursuing residency complaints.

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