by Max Brantley
Rep. David Sanders’ West Little Rock district was redrawn, putting his old home in a new majority-minority district. He’s moved. He notes, however, that his new Chenal-area home is still in his old district, so he can run again for that same district. He’s also weighing a Senate run, but his new home is in that district.
Republican Rep. Jane English of North Little Rock is another matter. She wants to run for Senate next year for term-limited Mary Anne Salmon’s seat. Not an inch of English’s current House district is in that Senate district, though only a short distance separates the districts. She’s already moved from her home on Forest Glade to the Foothills Apartments in the Senate district while looking for a new house. So she is no longer a resident of the House district she represents. Candidates must establish residency in a district a year before they run, according to the Arkansas Constitution, but it is silent on changes of residency after election.
Does English’s move complicate her current representation of a district in which she no longer lives? English thinks not. She said the House is the judge of members' qualifications and if Democrats want to make an issue of her current residency, they’ll have an opportunity in the coming fiscal session. But English notes, rightly, that they do so at some peril. Over the years, many legislators have maintained residences in places different than the districts they represent. She alluded specifically to a former Delta-area Democrat who was a resident of Little Rock, where his children were schooled, while claiming residency back "home."
“I’m out in my district all the time, regardless of where my bed is,” English said.
UPDATE: Here's a recent court case in which the Supreme Court said the House judged members' qualifications in the case of a challenge of a Republican legislator, Jim Magnus, who moved out of his Little Rock district. If you read it, you'll find some interesting language in which the court said it might have had to consider the case differently if the legislator had cast a deciding vote on legislation.