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Miami lawmaker resigns, will plead guilty in criminal case over residency

Rep. Daisy Baez claimed she lived in the district, but she didn’t.
State Rep. Daisy Baez of Coral Gables, pictured during the legislative session earlier this year. (Scott Keeler  |  Times)
State Rep. Daisy Baez of Coral Gables, pictured during the legislative session earlier this year. (Scott Keeler | Times)
Published Nov. 1, 2017
Updated Nov. 1, 2017

UPDATE: Democratic Rep. Daisy Baez has officially resigned her seat in the Florida Legislature as part of her agreement to plead guilty to a misdemeanor perjury charge in a case over her legal residency. Baez sent House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, her one-sentence resignation letter Wednesday morning.

State Rep. Daisy Baez will resign her Florida House seat Wednesday ahead of pleading guilty to perjury in a criminal case over her legal residency, she told the Miami Herald late Tuesday.

As part of an agreement with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, the Coral Gables Democrat will also pay a $1,000 fine, take an ethics course and serve one year of probation, during which she’ll be banned from seeking public office.

“On November 1, I will tender my resignation as a member of the Florida House of Representatives,” Baez said in a statement. “I want to thank the residents of Florida, Miami-Dade County and District 114 for giving me the opportunity to serve, it’s been a great honor.

“When I began my service as a Representative last year, I vowed to serve the public interest to the best of my ability and I am confident I have done so. As I return to my life as a private citizen, I pledge to continue fighting for universal healthcare, empowering our teachers, and improving the quality of life for the youngest, most vulnerable Floridians.”

Baez was returning to Miami on Tuesday from the Dominican Republic, where she buried her mother, who died last week.

Prosecutors began investigating after the Herald reported on May 16 that Baez did not appear to live in House District 114, as required by the Florida Constitution. She claimed she rented an apartment inside the district.

“I have two residences,” she said.

But investigators found she lived in the home she owns in House District 112 — and did not lease a third rental property in House District 114 until after the Herald published its story.

The controversy forced Baez to drop out of a high-profile race for state Senate District 40. She had been tapped by top Florida Democrats, who considered her a rising party star, even though she was a freshman representative with only one legislative session under her belt.

Baez was elected last November to a swing seat previously held by Republican Rep. Erik Fresen. Her resignation will leave Democrats with only 40 lawmakers in the House. If a Republican wins this seat, it would give the GOP 80 members, constituting a supermajority, or two-thirds of the 120-seat chamber. This would allow Republicans to do pretty much anything they want, from overriding a veto from the governor, waiving rules or closing off debate so Democrats can’t be heard.

Prosecutors questioned Baez earlier this month, shortly after a House committee found probable cause to investigate a citizen complaint in June over Baez’s residency. That investigation could have resulted in Baez’s expulsion from the chamber; the committee issued subpoenas last week to depose witnesses in the case, though the depositions were pushed back after the death of Baez’s mother.

Following Baez’s resignation, the House investigation will now be moot.

Miami Herald staff writer David Ovalle contributed to this report.