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A federal judge Friday sentenced former state Rep. Erik Fresen to 60 days in jail and one year of probation for failing to file a 2011 tax return, according to a court document. Fresen, who was chairman of the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee before leaving the Legislature last year because of term limits, pleaded guilty in April to the tax charge. The charge carried a maximum sentence of one year in prison. Before Friday's sentencing in front of U.S. District Judge Robert Scola Jr., Fresen's attorneys filed a lengthy memorandum asking that he be placed on probation instead of going to jail. “In short, Erik's life has been irreparably and fundamentally damaged as a result of his conduct,” said the memorandum, filed Monday. “Under these circumstances, where so much has already been lost, the aims of sentencing --- specifically, deterrence and promoting respect for the law --- are accomplished with a non-custodial sentence.” But prosecutors filed a response Thursday saying Fresen should receive a jail sentence. “At bottom, Fresen essentially requests this court to ignore the sentencing guidelines in imposing sentence in this case in large part because it is a misdemeanor tax matter,” the response said.

Gov. Rick Scott will propose spending $8 million next year to provide 10 percent pay raises to juvenile-detention and juvenile-probation officers, his office said Friday. Scott will include the money in a proposed budget that he will submit to the Legislature for consideration during the 2018 legislative session, which starts in January. In a prepared statement, Scott said the pay raises are designed to help recruit and retain officers in the juvenile-justice system. “I look forward to working with the Legislature during the upcoming session to pass this 10 percent pay raise, which will ensure DJJ can hire highly qualified and dedicated detention and probation officers to help our youth and keep our communities safe for years to come.” The Scott administration has trickled out details of his upcoming budget proposal, including announcing this week that the governor wants to provide $50 million next year to help combat the state's opioid epidemic. The spending proposals come as economists say lawmakers face a tight budget in 2018 and in the following years.

A second industry group has filed a legal challenge against an effort by Gov. Rick Scott's administration to require nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to quickly install generators that can power air-conditioning systems. The Florida Assisted Living Association, which represents more than 500 facilities across the state, filed the challenge this week in the state Division of Administrative Hearings. The organization LeadingAge Florida, which represents nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, filed a challenge earlier in the week. At the direction of Scott, the state Agency for Health Care Administration and the state Department of Elder Affairs issued emergency rules to require generators after the deaths this month of residents of a Broward County nursing home that lost air conditioning because of Hurricane Irma. Under the emergency rules, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have 45 days to submit plans that would involve acquiring generators to ensure temperatures could be maintained at 80 degrees or cooler for 96 hours after losing electricity. Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities would have to carry out the plans within 60 days. But industry officials contend it is unrealistic to expect that nursing homes and assisted-living facilities could add generators in such a short period of time. Both challenges also contend the state did not follow proper administrative procedures in issuing the rules. “Petitioner disputes that procedurally the agency (the Department of Elder Affairs) has promulgated a valid emergency rule, or that there exists an actual emergency,” said the challenge filed by the Florida Assisted Living Association. “No problem of any magnitude exists, but rather there was an isolated and unique problem with a single facility. Also, the agency cannot show that the perceived problem is new or emergent. To the contrary, the agency has been aware of the alleged regulatory issues for many years, but has never initiated valid rulemaking.” Eight residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills died and more than 100 residents were evacuated Sept. 13, three days after Irma knocked out the facility's air conditioning. Four more residents have subsequently died. After the LeadingAge Florida challenge was filed this week, Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis said the governor is focused on “saving lives. This association should focus solely on keeping seniors safe and not on lawsuits.”

On the 40th anniversary of the enactment of the 1977 Food Stamp Act, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Fla., on Friday called for the expansion of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps low-income families, senior citizens and people with disabilities buy food. “Hunger and food insecurity is a huge problem in our area,” Lawson said, saying one out of every four residents of his congressional district, which stretches from Gadsden County to Jacksonville, has relied on SNAP benefits at some point in the past year. Lawson, who is a member of the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, has launched a “Let's Feed America” campaign to underscore the problem and to push for more changes in SNAP benefits as Congress passes a farm bill in the next year. Lawson said he would like to see an expansion that helps more seniors, children and college students. He also said he would like the program to have a provision that would allow benefits to be expanded during natural disasters like hurricanes. After Hurricane Irma struck Florida, the federal government waived some restrictions, allowing Floridians to use the program to purchase hot meals, which are normally prohibited. Lawson has joined U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to back a measure that would let seniors use a medical-expenses deduction when applying for SNAP benefits. If approved, it could increase their monthly food assistance by $7 to $69, Lawson said. About 3.3 million Floridians received SNAP benefits as of November 2016, with 55 percent of the support for children and 26 percent for seniors and people with disabilities, according to the state Department of Children and Families. President Donald Trump's federal budget plan calls for a 25 percent reduction in the SNAP program over the next decade. “That is totally unacceptable for the needs that we have,” said Lawson, who is from Tallahassee.


© 2017 The News Service of Florida. All rights reserved. Posting or forwarding this material without permission is prohibited.