You would think the people who represent us in Congress and the state legislature would be able to find a nice place to live in the sprawling geographic regions they represent.
But that apparently is a problem. State Sen. Ted Gaines, whose district includes Truckee, has gained permission from the state Senate to move from Rocklin to Roseville, outside his district. (That puts him closer to Sacramento if he gets elected Insurance Commissioner in November.)
Our other state Senator, Jim Nielsen, claims he lives in Gerber (Tehama County), but apparently also spends a lot of time in Woodland, which is outside his district. Nielsen says he lives in Woodlood when he’s conducting business at the Capitol or the parts of his district that are near Sacramento.
Then there’s one of our congressmen, Rep. Tom McClintock, a long-time resident of southern California who discovered our little corner of paradise when he got termed out of the state legislature.
But at least McClintock has the law on his side. Federal law requires only that congressional candidates live in the state they represent, not the district.
California is a little more demanding–when the state legislature chooses to enforce the law. Legislative candidates must be eligible voters in the district they seek to represent for a year before an election and must be residents of California for three years.
Nielsen has been cleared in several investigations, but two of his Republican colleagues have been sued by opposing candidates for allegedly violating the residency rule. Neither suit was successful.
In theory these violations are the province of our 58 district attorneys, but they’re not always eager to go after potential scofflaws. After the Sacramento Bee “outed” a Democratic Assemblyman in Sacramento, the DA tossed the case to the office of the Secretary of State, which decided not to prosecute after conducting an investigation it won’t discuss.
But state Sen. Rod Wright was convicted of lying about where he lives, and has taken a leave of absence from the Senate while he awaits sentencing. “I don’t know if it will make them more honest,” Jack Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College, told the Bee. “But it will make them more careful, which isn’t exactly the same thing.”
But why should they care if the legislature won’t enforce its own rules and DAs won’t prosecute? At least we know where Rep. Doug LaMalfa and state Assemblyman Brian Dahle live, right?