A select committee of the Florida House of Representatives decided Tuesday that there is probable cause to move forward with claims that state Rep. Daisy Baez, D-Coral Gables, might have violated state residency requirements.
The select committee was created earlier this year by House Speaker Richard Corcoran following news reports claiming that Baez, a freshman legislator, did not reside in House District 114 that she was elected to represent in November.
“On May 30, 2017, a complaint was filed against Rep. Baez alleging the member was and is not qualified to hold office because she did not reside in her district at the time of election or thereafter, through the time of the complaint,” said Rep. Tom Leek, R-Daytona Beach, the chair of the select committee. “The complaint bases its allegations on public property, election and tax records, as well as statements of witnesses published in news reports.”
State law requires that a person elected to office must live and vote in the district they represent by Election Day.
The Miami Herald reported in May that Baez appeared to still be living in a house she owned in Coral Gables that’s located a half mile away from District 114.
Baez claims she had met state residency requirements by moving into an apartment within the district by last year’s election. She claims the house located outside the district was listed for sale and that she has been living the apartment located within the district she was elected to represent.
She says the only thing she’s guilty of is failing to change the address on her driver license and her homestead exemption in a timely manner.
The committee’s determination that probable cause exists means the panel will move forward in considering the facts in the case and giving Baez a chance to respond to the charges. The panel will then produce a report and recommend possible sanctions against Baez if she is found to be guilty.
If it’s determined she did not live in District 114 by last November’s election, penalties could range from being “fined, censured, reprimanded, placed on probation, or expelled or have such other lesser penalty imposed as may be appropriate.” Any sanction would require two-thirds vote of either the chamber or the House membership.
The original complaint against Baez 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.