A flurry of news stories about where state lawmakers live is prompting Florida's legislative leaders to draw up new standards that will be used in the future.
A Republican state senator earlier this month asked for an inquiry into whether a half-dozen legislators were flouting the state law that requires legislators to live in the district they represent.
Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford on Wednesday stopped short of authorizing any kind of investigation.
Instead, the two Republican leaders wrote in a letter to Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, that the Legislature has never developed a "clear set of principles" to determine residency.
The constitution says the Legislature is responsible for being the "sole judge" of the qualifications of its members. The constitution also states that legislators must be "electors" and be a resident of their district. But that provision does not define what constitutes residency.
In the past, legislators and other public officials around the state have deflected questions about residency by pointing to either their voter registration address or to a property tax homestead exemption.
Weatherford and Gaetz said they will ask legislative lawyers to recommend appropriate standards that they will use to evaluate if any member is violating the law. Once the standards are in place, the Legislature can evaluate any formal complaints that are made against individual legislators, they said.
"These standards will inform current and future members of the Florida Legislature of the criteria each chamber may use to assess the qualifications of its members," states the letter.
But both Weatherford and Gaetz did say that one standard is already clear: Legislators must be registered to vote at an address inside their own district. They are asking state election officials to turn over a list of the voter registration addresses of all 160 members by Sept. 1.
Latvala said Wednesday that he was satisfied with the response
"That sounds like they are doing their job," Latvala said. "Part of the answer to the whole situation is to put some standards for the future so there's no confusion."
Television stations have done stories this year about Democratic legislators shown living at homes outside their districts. But those legislators have insisted they have complied with legal requirements.