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Politics

Jack Latvala to Pitch Residency Bill

December 9, 2013 - 6:00pm

The chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee said Tuesday that he will sponsor legislation in the 2014 session spelling out residency requirements for state and local elected officials.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said he will file the bill "pretty soon." He said it would include a list of eight to 10 factors that a judge would consider if questions arise about whether an official lives in the district that he or she was elected to represent.

"I think, once and for all, we need to put in the statutes, here's the criteria for being considered a resident," Latvala told reporters.

Latvala, who is engaged in a battle for the Senate presidency in the legislative term following the 2016 elections, has been hammering the residency issue for months. He has publicly accused Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, of living outside her district; Sachs defeated one of Latvala's GOP supporters in the only incumbent-against-incumbent Senate race of the 2012 election cycle.

Sachs has faced questions because the home she and her husband own is outside the District 34 boundaries. Sachs at one time claimed to live in a Fort Lauderdale condo owned by a friend but earlier this year changed her voter registration to a condominium in Delray Beach.

But Latvala said Tuesday that his residency bill would go beyond what has been previously discussed to include local elected officials as well as state lawmakers. That's why the measure would attempt to change state law, rather than the Legislature's rules, as had been suggested by Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.

"A rule would only apply to our members," Latvala said. "It wouldn't apply to city commissioners and county commissioners and school board members, and why should they not have to live in their districts, too?"

For her part, Sachs pointed out that her residency has been established by state reviews but declined to take a position on Latvala's proposal.

"If any legislator wants to file more bills to that effect, they're welcome to do it. ... I would be happy to participate in any discussion with regard to that," Sachs said.

At least one local government group said it wouldn't be opposed to the idea of drawing up formal residency requirements. Ryan Padgett, associate general counsel of the Florida League of Cities, said his organization didn't have a formal position on the issue.

"It might not be a bad idea to set out some clear standards so that everyone's on the same page," he said.

Padgett said his group would likely want to preserve the ability of cities to set up stricter residency requirements if they chose to do so.

A spokeswoman for the Florida Association of Counties said she wasn't aware of the proposal.

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