Stakes now even higher for Detroit retirees
DETROIT (AP) - Some experts believe the time is right for serious talks aimed at solving a pension shortfall in Detroit's bankruptcy case.
Judge Steven Rhodes said Tuesday that pensions can be cut as part of an overall plan to bring Detroit out of bankruptcy. It's a blow to more than 20,000 retirees who argue that the Michigan Constitution offers complete protection.
Most city pensioners get less than $20,000 a year.
Former bankruptcy judge Melanie Cyganowski says a settlement would bring certainty to anxious retirees. Unions acknowledge that negotiation is important but they're pledging to appeal the judge's decision.
Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr says he understands the hardship. But he says the city doesn't have money to shore up pension funds that are underfunded by $3.5 billion.
HOUSE OFFICE BUDGETS
Michigan House budget rising 5 percent in 2014
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Lawmakers in the Michigan House will see their office budgets rise 5 percent in 2014.
Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger of Marshall made the announcement Wednesday. He says that even with the 5 percent increase for costs like staffers' salaries and office materials, overall House budgets will be $1 million lower than in 2010.
Bolger says the economy and budgets are improving, so it's reasonable to give legislators more money for their offices to serve constituents and "solve problems for the families" in their districts.
Lawmakers' own salaries and expense accounts are staying the same. Recommendations on legislators' salaries are up a separate state commission.
Lawmakers took a 10 percent pay cut in 2011. They make nearly $72,000 a year.
House votes to assume teen prostitutes are victims
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan House has voted to give legal protection to teen prostitutes in an attempt to address human trafficking.
A bill approved unanimously Wednesday would require that when people under age 18 are charged with prostitution, it's presumed that they were coerced into it. They would be subject to temporary protective custody, and police would have to immediately report a suspected human trafficking violation to state social workers.
The legislation is based on a recent recommendation from the state's first human trafficking commission to create a "safe harbor" provision for minors. Bill sponsor Representative Eileen Kowall, a White Lake Republican, says the state should help victims rebuild their lives instead of arresting them.
The bill and a related one now go to the Senate for consideration.
House votes to ensure jury trials in state suits
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan House has voted unanimously to ensure that the right to jury trials continues in certain lawsuits filed against the state.
Wednesday's vote comes after majority Republicans and Governor Rick Snyder passed a law in November to take state lawsuits away from Ingham County judges and other counties and move them to four appeals court judges comprising the new Court of Claims.
Some question whether the law still allows jury trials.
Republican Representative Mike Shirkey of Clark Lake says he sponsored the bill to provide "perfect clarity" that people who had the right to a jury trial under the old law will continue to have it. The legislation also says the attorney general doesn't have to transfer all pending cases to new judges.
The bill goes to the Senate.
Mich. Senate votes to authorize sale of building
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Republican-led Michigan Senate has voted to authorize the potential sale of a downtown Lansing building that houses senators' offices.
Legislation approved 22-14 Wednesday would let the Senate secretary convey the state-owned Farnum Building for fair market value, with proceeds going to the Senate to acquire or lease office space.
The state bought the building near the Capitol for $3 million in 1978. The building was recently appraised at $5.4 million.
A top Republican backer of the bill headed to the House says the building has asbestos issues and needs updated security and other renovations. A developer could buy the building and lease it to the Senate, or senators might move elsewhere downtown.
A top Democrat questions if the sale will be transparent.
Health officials warn of stomach illness in Mich.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Health officials say there's been a reported increase in stomach illness over the past week in Michigan.
The Kent County Health Department on Tuesday issued a warning to the public, saying some of the cases appear to be norovirus. The department's communicable disease staff members have seen a slight increase in emergency department patients with symptoms.
Norovirus is part of a family of viruses that are spread person-to-person and cause flu-like symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping.
Health officials are urging people to take precautions, such as washing hands before eating, after using the bathroom and before, during and after preparing food.
TRASH BIN DEATH-KALAMAZOO
Murder charge for man accused of fatal bat beating
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - Prosecutors have filed a murder charge against a man accused of beating another man with a baseball bat, then leaving him critically injured in a trash bin.
Thirty-year-old Francico Veloz-Padilla died last week after being hospitalized November 5th, when he was found severely injured in a trash bin in Kalamazoo.
MLive DOT com reports that Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting says 25-year-old Drew Thorngate was charged Wednesday with an open count of murder. He was arrested November 7th on an attempted murder charge.
Detectives say Thorngate told them he met Veloz-Padilla on November 5th after Veloz-Padilla contacted him to request services for a massage, and they argued.
The county jail had no information Wednesday night on whether Thorngate has a lawyer.
More security planned after EMU student shot
YPSILANTI, Mich. (AP) - Management of an off-campus apartment complex where an Eastern Michigan University student was shot in the shoulder says it plans to step up security.
Gina Cowart, vice president of investor relations and corporate marketing for American Campus Communities, said in a statement to The Ann Arbor News that they are "focused on collaborating with our community partners to address crime."
Destinee Leapheart says she thought she was going to die after awakening to a popping noise and shoulder pain about 1:40 a.m. Tuesday. She was treated at a hospital.
The apartment is in the Peninsular Place complex, where two killings have been reported in the past year. One of the deaths was that of 23-year-old Eastern Michigan student Julia Niswender, whose December 2012 bathtub drowning was ruled a homicide.
DNR: At least 19 wolves killed in Michigan hunt
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - At least 19 wolves have been killed during Michigan's wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula.
The state Department of Natural Resources updated the results Wednesday morning. It says five wolves were killed in the far western U.P., 11 in central counties and three in the eastern U.P.
The wolf season started on November 15th and runs through December, unless 43 are killed before the end of the year.
It's the first hunt in Michigan since the wolf was placed on the endangered species list nearly 40 years ago. A total of 1,200 people are licensed to participate with firearm, crossbow or bow and arrow.
Before the hunt, the DNR estimated the state's wolf population at 658.
USDA gives $7.94M for water work in rural Michigan
POWELL TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it's giving $7.94 million in grants and loans to three rural Michigan communities for improvements to their water systems.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday that his department is providing $203 million for 74 projects in 40 states.
Powell Township in the Upper Peninsula's Marquette County is getting a $1.63 million loan and $1.33 million grant for new wells, hydrants and meters.
The village of Ellsworth in Antrim County in the northern Lower Peninsula is getting a $607,000 loan to replace water services on several streets. And Whiteford Township in southeastern Michigan's Monroe County is getting a $3.27 million grant and $1.09 million loan for wells, lines and hydrants.
The funding comes from the department's Rural Development's Water and Environmental Program.
Nov. sales up for Ohio-built Chevy Cruze
LORDSTOWN, Ohio (AP) - General Motors says sales of the Ohio-built Chevrolet Cruze were up last month.
GM said Tuesday that Cruze sales were up by 8.3 percent in November, snapping it out of three-month slide. The compact car is built at a plant in Lordstown, near Youngtown.
It was best November sales ever for the Cruze. GM said 18,200 units were sold last month, compared with 16,807 in November 2012.
The Vindicator reports that Tuesday's positive report broke a streak of declining year-over-year sales. In September, Cruze sales dropped 50 percent from the same period last year, signaling an all-time low in the vehicle's sales.
But the Cruze has had a good year of sales overall. It's still Chevrolet's second-best selling model behind the Silverado pickup truck.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.