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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida secretary of state silent on Senate four-year terms, but what about residency rule?

21

October

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner has received a few questions -- from supervisors of elections, reporters, etc. -- about what he thinks of the legal argument advanced by Sen. Bill Galvano to allow senators in the middle of a four-year term to not run for re-election in 2016 even if their districts are redrawn.

His answer: no comment. 

"At this point, there isn't an opinion from the agency because, from our perspective, it's too far out,'' said Meredith Beatrice, Detzner spokeswoman. "We're waiting for the outcome. The districts are not drawn yet and we're not drawing them."

The Florida Constitution requires that senators are elected to four-year terms except when the districts change because of reapportionment. The Senate lawyers contend that that exception should only apply once in a decade, even when redistricting challenges require the districts to be redrawn. 

Here's the law:

"Senators shall be elected for terms of four years, those from odd-numbered districts in the years the numbers of which are multiples of four and those from even-numbered districts in even-numbered years the numbers of which are not multiples of four; except, at the election next following a reapportionment, some senators shall be elected for terms of two years when necessary to maintain staggered terms."

Another issue: when do residency requirements kick in? If a senator who is not up for re-election in 2016 is drawn into the same district as another, doesn't this give them two years to move before moving in this his or her district?

 


 

According to the Senate rule adopted in 2014, a senator must reside in his or her district at the time of election. However, the rule silent as to what happens when the district changes in mid-term.

Asked about the issue, Senate Reapportionment Committee chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, called it "an interesting question."

"I think it’s something I would take up with counsel,'' he said. "If the decision of the court is if you’re in a term and you run out that term, I don’t think you would have to move. But I would like to get more clarity on that before I give you a definitive answer."

Here's the rule: 

7.1—Residency (1) A member shall be a legal resident and elector of his or her district at the time of election and shall maintain his or her legal residence within that district for the duration of his or her term of office. While a member may have multiple residences, he or she shall have only one legal residence. The legal residence of a member at a designated location is demonstrated by a totality of the circumstances. Factors to be considered include, but are not limited to:

(a) Where one claims to reside, as reflected in statements to others or in official documents; (b) The abandonment of a prior legal residence, as evidenced by moving from or selling a prior legal residence; (c) The abandonment of rights and privileges associated with a prior legal residence; (d) Where one is registered as a voter; (e) Where one claims a legal residence for a homestead exemption; (f) Where one claims a legal residence for a driver license or other government privilege or benefit; (g) The transfer of one’s bank accounts to the district where one maintains a legal residence; (h) Where one’s spouse and minor children maintain a legal residence, work, and attend school; (i) Where one receives mail and other correspondence; (j) Where one customarily resides; (k) Where one conducts business affairs; (l) Where one rents or leases property; and (m) Where one plans the construction of a new legal residence. (2) In accordance with Section 3 of Article X of the Florida Constitution, a vacancy in office occurs when a member fails to maintain a legal residence within his or her district as required at the time of election. (3) In accordance with Section 2 of Article III of the Florida Constitution, each house of the Legislature shall be the sole judge of the qualifications of its members, including whether a member no longer satisfies his or her qualifications for office. (4) Each member shall affirm in writing that he or she is a legal resident and elector of his or her district based on the provisions of this Joint Rule. Each member shall file the written affirmation with the Secretary of the Senate or the Clerk of the House of Representatives before the convening of Organization Session following each general election.

[Last modified: Wednesday, October 21, 2015 9:00pm]

    

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