Whether Democratic state Rep. Daisy Baez actually lives in South Florida’s House District 114 will be investigated by a select House subcommittee on member conduct.
A Thursday memo from Speaker Richard Corcoran agreed there is “probable cause” for an inquiry, in response to an earlier memo earlier from Rep. Larry Metz, chair of the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee.
The Miami Herald reported in May that Baez “did not appear to live in District 114, which she has represented since being elected (in) November, but rather in neighboring District 112 [represented by Democrat Nicholas Duran], where she owns a house … and has a property-tax homestead exemption.”
Baez later told the Herald she has another “residence,” an rental apartment, within District 114’s boundaries. Both districts are within Miami-Dade County.
The state constitution says “(e)ach 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 constitution also reserves to each legislative chamber the right to be the “sole judge” of its members’ qualifications.
What “residency” really means has long vexed legislators and others. Specific factors the panel might consider include:
— Where Baez gets her mail.
— The address where she claims a homestead exemption.
— Proof of payment and the amount of electricity she uses, along with other utilities.
— The address she listed on her federal income tax returns.
— The address on her voter information card and motor vehicle registration.
Rep. Tom Leek, an Ormond Beach Republican, will chair the five-person panel, which also includes Reps. Cord Byrd, a Neptune Beach Republican; Jason Brodeur, a Sanford Republican; Tracie Davis, a Jacksonville Democrat; and Emily Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat.
Metz received information earlier this month from the Florida Commission on Ethics that questioned Baez’s residency.
“Substantive allegations” in the original complaint contend that Baez has not lived in HD 114 for “most or all of her tenure in the House.” That complaint was filed in June by Coral Gables voter Christian Rodriguez.
“Baez is ineligible to represent the district in the Florida House of Representatives and should be removed immediately upon a finding that she either never established her permanent residency within House District 114 or she relinquished her permanent residency,” the complaint read.
The subcommittee will report to Metz upon concluding its investigation.