One of the bones of contention during political campaigns and in reporting by Historic City News on both candidates and elected officials is where the individual “resides” — the address often is not where they call “home”.
Meeting legal residency requirements for municipal, county and state elected officials, has been subjective, at best; at least in several local St Augustine and St Johns County elections. Most recently, Florida Senator John Thrasher, who was affected by redistricting, was challenged for using his St Augustine Beach condo address to meet the residency requirements to hold his seat, and he is not alone.
But, yesterday, two legislators, Rep. Ray Rodrigues, and Senator Jack Latvala, were promoting their bill; one they say, “takes an area that has been perceived by some as gray and makes it more clearly defined.” Rodrigues said clearly defining residency requirements would improve public confidence in the lawmaking process.
Historic City News readers following the 2006 Election for St Johns County Commission District 4 may recall that citizen complaints dogged Thomas G. Manuel; who lives in District 1, but used a rented apartment in Ponte Vedra Beach to qualify for the office. He was later removed from that office by the governor after he was arrested, and later convicted, of felony corruption charges.
At Thursday’s press conference, Rodrigues estimated that up to 10 percent of his legislative colleagues don’t really live in their legislative districts. Criteria contained in his bill would help legally prove whether or not an elected official is dodging residency requirements.
If someone files a complaint with the Commission on Ethics or with a state attorney’s office that alleges an elected official does not live where they say they do, the bill would establish criteria for judges to apply. Those would include voter registration, homestead exemption, the address listed with a person’s private employer or various professional licenses.
If passed, this bill would become effective January 1, 2015.