House Speaker Richard Corcoran has created a special committee to determine whether freshman Miami state Rep. Daisy Baez should be sanctioned for potentially violating a state law that requires her to reside in her district.
The Miami Herald reported in May that it appeared that Baez, a Democrat, does not reside in House District 114 that she represents but instead lives in a Coral Gables house about half a mile away. Florida requires lawmakers to live and vote in the districts they represent by Election Day.
Baez said Thursday through a spokesperson that the house is listed for sale and she continues to live in an apartment in the district.
“I look forward to resolving this matter, and I remain focused on the issues that matter to Florida families — improving our schools, making healthcare more affordable and improving our public transportation,” she said in a statement.
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According to Zillow, the real estate website, Baez’s 1,548-square-foot Coral Gables home with a pool was listed on June 14. She is asking $680,000 for it.
Before Baez was elected on Nov. 8 of last year, she changed her voter-registration address to a Coral Gables apartment within the District 114 boundaries, election records show.
Reached at her house, which is located in House District 112, Baez told the Herald in May: “I have kept this home, and I have a rental. I am renovating this house to put it on the market.”
House chairman of the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, wrote in a letter to Corcoran Tuesday that a complaint was received by the Florida Commission on Ethics and referred to the House. He said the evidence appears to “support a finding of probable cause” and urged him to create the subcommittee.
Corcoran has named Reps. Tom Leek, R-Daytona Beach, Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, Cord Byrd, R-Jacksonville Beach, Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, and Emily Slosberg, D-Delray Beach, to sit on the Select Subcommittee on Member Conduct. The panel is authorized to investigate, give Baez an opportunity to respond, and produce a report and recommendation.
House rules allow the chamber to determine the sanctions if Baez is found guilty. Penalties could range from being “fined, censured, reprimanded, placed on probation, or expelled or have such other lesser penalty imposed as may be appropriate.” The sanction will require two-thirds vote of either the chamber or the House membership.
House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, did not address the merits of the allegations in a statement.
“I consider Rep. Baez a friend and I know her to be a dedicated public servant,’’ Cruz said. “I look forward to this issue receiving a fair review under the process in place and it is my hope a timely resolution can be reached.”
Unlike Congress, which does not require members to reside in the district they represent, Florida law requires that members reside within the boundaries of their district, but until 2014, the House and Senate had not established rules and standards to spell out how members could comply.
In the aftermath of the 2012 redistricting, and the court battles that followed, several legislators went to creative means to show they had accommodated the requirements of the new border lines, many using rental properties or homes of relatives to justify the residency requirements.
As a result, the issue has also become a political tool. Daniel Perez’s primary opponent in the special election for House District 116, Jose Mallea, accused Perez of potentially violating the law because he was building a house that was still under construction and was not sure it would be completed by the day of the special election on Sept. 26.