Tampa, Florida -- Florida legislators are congratulating themselves for tightening requirements that they have to live in the district they represent. However, 10 Investigates discovered the new law appears to have some loopholes.
While Florida law has always said the lawmakers must be a permanent resident of their district, we have discovered that is not always the case, and the new law provides plenty of wiggle room for those who want to try to stretch the truth and have two homes.
We found that to be the case more than two years ago when State Senator John Legg was a Pasco representative. He had a home in his district and his wife had a home out of the district, where it appeared he lived most of the time.
Although Legg's driver license and voter registration listed the home in the district as his permanent address, there were several months where his utility bill showed absolutely no water usage.
At the time, Legg told us, "Those months we were either gone, out of town, and first of all to say 'there is no use of water', I'd have to look at that number to see that."
We showed Legg his utility bills and said, "Last month no use of water, no use of water there, no use of water there."
Legg responded, "I don't know if they read the meter or not, but there should be some usage. Zero, there is always some usage, something."
Again, we showed him more of the bills and said, "Well right there, there is zero, right there and there is zero."
Legg admitted,"I can't tell you why there is zero."
Under the new law, a utility bill is one way to prove residency, but it isn't a mandatory document. It appears even under the new law someone who has two homes can claim the home in their district as their permanent residence even if they spend more time at a different home.
Legg isn't the only Tampa Bay legislator who has been questioned about his residency. Representative Janet Cruz rents a home in her district, while her husband owns a home that is out of the district. Utility bills show there are months where water use is lower than what the city says is average.
Meanwhile, Legg's office says he is living his Senate district and he voted for the new law.
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