A trial date has been set for a Miami-Dade lawmaker accused of living outside her district for seven months, a House ethics panel announced Thursday.
Rep. Daisy Baez, D-Miami, will face the music Dec. 4 over allegations she doesn’t actually live in the district she represents.
The House ethics panel said earlier this week there was “sufficient” evidence to conclude Baez failed to live in her district when she was sworn into office, a violation of Florida law.
At her first hearing on Thursday, the panel concluded it would move forward with its investigation after a local resident filed a complaint against Baez for her alleged residency violation.
Baez’s residency woes made headlines earlier this summer after the Miami Herald found Baez had been living in a house in HD 112, a little over a mile away from HD 114, the district she was actually elected to represent last November.
The Florida Constitution says state lawmakers must actually live in the districts they represent in Tallahassee.
Miami blogger Elaine de Valle reported that Baez seemingly acknowledged she sleeps outside her district in her Malaga Avenue house in HD 112, but Baez said she was on the hunt for a house inside HD 114 boundary lines -- nearly seven months after being elected to the Florida House of Representatives.
“Right now, I’m sleeping at that house, yes. But I think I don’t want to talk about the situation any more,” she told de Valle at the time. “I’m trying to correct the situation.”
A few weeks later, Baez has apparently righted her situation and said she was a full-time resident in the district she should have been living in all along.
If the owners of the apartment in which she was supposed to be living in in HD 114, Robert and Maritza Jacobson, were renting the unit out to Baez, they could indeed be committing homestead exemption fraud, Miami-Dade Property Appraiser spokesperson Claudia Miro confirmed to Sunshine State News this summer.
That would make Baez a party to the crime.
The Jacobsons claimed the property as their primary residence on their homestead exemption papers, according to the Miami Dade County Property Appraiser’s website. Voter records showed all three people living at the Anderson Road apartment.
Florida law requires homeowners to actually live where they declare a homestead exemption, which means renting for more than 30 days in two consecutive years is off the table.
It’s uncertain whether Baez actually knew the Jacobsons were declaring homestead exemption on the condo before she rented it out last November.
Baez’s attorney, Mark Herron, told the House ethics panel Baez “took steps prior to being elected to move to the Anderson Road property, to establish residency in the Anderson Road property.”
Baez continued to reiterate she was indeed living in HD114 despite the allegations.
“We look forward to work with the committee in an expedient way and get on with the business of taking care of the people of Florida and the many issues we have at hand,” she said.
If guilty, Baez wouldn’t be the first lawmaker to be caught living outside her district. Former state Rep. Reggie Fulwood, a Democrat from Jacksonville, was fined $1,220 for failing to live in his district for 15 days after he was elected -- a fine of about $81 a day.
Former state Sen. Frank Artiles was also whacked with a residency complaint when he was caught living in a different city when he was a state representative, but Artiles was not penalized.