Monday State News Summary
Mon, 01 Jul 2013 12:34:18 EDT

(USCourt-Adoption-GayMarriage)
A federal judge in Detroit says a case challenging the state's same-sex marriage ban along with the ban on adoption by same sex couples, should go to trial.
The suit was filed by two Detroit-area lesbians who are raising three children. Michigan law says only heterosexual married couples may adopt children. The couple's lawsuit contends their civil rights are being violated.
Judge Bernard Friedman wrote that the plaintiffs (quote) "are entitled to their day in court and they shall have it."
The Detroit News reports that he is expected to set a trial date at a hearing scheduled on July 10th.
His ruling comes on the heels of the decision by the U-S Supreme Court to strike down the federal ban on recognition of same-sex marriages.


(Capitol-Indigent-Snyder)
Governor Rick Snyder has signed a bill into law which is designed to improve legal representation for those charged with crimes but who cannot afford an attorney.
Michigan has been criticized for having an inadequate system for providing representation for poor defendants.
Among other things, the legislation creates a permanent state commission, to be called the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, that will deal with legal representation for indigent defendants.
It also creates payment levels required for local governments and directs the state to cover additional costs to improve counties' public defense systems.
The commission will consist of 16 members who will research, develop and enforce new minimum standards for providing constitutionally-guaranteed legal representation in jurisdictions across Michigan.


(Mi-Drunk-Driving-Enforcement)
Drunk drivers will be red, white and busted this Fourth of July because law enforcement officers from 156 agencies in 26 Michigan
counties are putting extra officers out on the road starting tonight (Monday) as part of a statewide drunk driving crackdown.
The one-week "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign runs through Monday July 7th and includes officers from local police departments, sheriff offices and Michigan State Police posts across the state.
Michigan Office Of Highway Safety Planning Director Michael Prince says drunk driving is a serious offense with serious consequences,
and motorists need to designate a sober driver if they plan to be drinking.
During the 2012 July Fourth holiday period, four people were killed in four traffic crashes. Although none of the crashes involved alcohol.

---Dash---

In Michigan, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of point-zero-eight or higher, although motorists can be arrested at any BAC level if an officer feels they are impaired. Under the states high BAC law, motorists face enhanced penalties if a first-time arrest is for a
point-one-seven BAC or higher.
Statistics show that alcohol-related traffic deaths and serious injuries increase during the summer months, with July and August being the highest. During a five-year period (2008-2012), alcohol involvement resulted in 743 deaths and incapacitating injuries during the month of July
and 753 deaths and serious injuries during the month of August.
Police in Michigan will conduct a second statewide drunk driving enforcement campaign over the Labor Day Holiday at the end of August.



(MI-Gas Prices)
The price of gas in Michigan continues it's decline.
Triple-A reports that the nearly 1.4 Michigan motorists traveling on vacation 50 miles or more from home this July 4th holiday will find the states average gas price down 19.7 cents this week, and down 80 cents since June 7s $4.25 per gallon.
Michigans current statewide average is $3.44 per gallon, 2.8 cents more than this same time last year.
The lowest price found among the markets surveyed was in Traverse City at $3.30 per gallon.   The highest was in the Marquette area at $3.57
AAA surveys 2,800 Michigan gas stations daily.    


(Royal Oak-DogCensus)
Census workers are making their way around Royal Oak beginning today (Mon).
But it's not the kind of census you may be accustomed to.
Workers are going door-to-door to make sure dogs in the city are licensed and up-to-date on rabies shots.
According to city officials, the count is an attempt to control the rise of unlicensed dogs in the city. City officials say, theres an estimated 23-thousand dogs in Royal Oak, but only 35-hundred have licenses.
(24/7 News Source)


(Det-Shooting Death)
Police in Detroit say a man was shot and killed early today (Mon) at an ATM on the city's northwest side.
The shooting happened at a Comerica bank branch, although few other details were immediately released.
The mans body was found inside a burgandy Monte Carlo in the parking lot.
This happened on the first day on the job for new police chief James Craig.
(WWJ, Detroit)


(GrHaven-PlaneCrash-Update)
The pilot of an experimental-class biplane that crashed Sunday afternoon near Grand Haven has been identified as Brian Cannon.
Cannon's plane crashed into a tree and landed in the back yard of a home in Grand Haven Township.
The crash reportedly happened shortly after takeoff. Cannon is hospitalized with internal injuries.
((24/7 News Source)


(Det-Double Fatal)
Northbound I-75 north of Detroit was closed early Monday following fiery crash that claimed two lives.
Police said the smash-up involved a slow-moving car and a semi-truck loaded with furniture. Both people in the car were killed; their identities have not yet been released. Because the license plate melted, police said they have no way to identify the victims and theyre hoping someone comes forward with information on who they could be.
The semi-truck driver hit the car, which was traveling at about 20 miles per hour with its emergency flashers on, just after midnight, according to police.
They add that the crash caused the gas tank to split open, creating a fire with a wall of flames up to 200 feet high.
The truck driver managed to jump from the truck and escape the flames to emerge unscathed from the crash. He told officers he hadnt seen the car until it was too late.   The car ended up trapped under the flaming semi.
An investigation is ongoing.
(WWJ, Detroit)


(MI-Unemployment Ranking)
Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed Michigan's 8.4 percent unemployment rate in May meant the state had the seventh highest jobless rate among all the states.
Michigan's rate was unchanged from April, and seven other states also saw their rates remain unchanged.
The bureau said the jobless rates in 25 states dropped from April to May, while it increased in 17 states.
Nevada continued to lead the nation with the highest jobless rate at 9.5 percent, down from 9.6 percent in April. It was followed by Mississippi and Illinois both at 9.1 percent.
North Dakota remained the state with the lowest unemployment rate at 3.2 percent, while Nebraska was second lowest at 3.8 percent and South Dakota was third lowest at 4 percent.
Illinois had the highest jobless rate of the Great Lakes states, followed by Michigan and then Indiana.


(Mi-Retail Sales-Pure Michigan)
Despite a number of other factors that are being credited for strong retail sales in May, mostly in Northern Michigan, the head of the Michigan Retailers Association is also pointing to the highly successful "Pure Michigan" ad campaign for boosting tourism and spending.
M-R-A President and C-E-O, Jim Hallan, says warm weather was mostly responsible for generating higher consumer confidence and spending during May. However, he also says 75-percent of Northern Michigan retailers received the most benefit in May, and there's no question that the "Pure Michigan" campaign is luring many out-of-state tourists to Michigan, who are bringing their dollars with them.
Hallan also predicts a strong summer for retailers, mostly in Northern Michigan, and is pleasantly surprised at the success despite a spike in gas prices to over four-dollars per gallon a few weeks ago. Those prices have since dropped to near three-dollars 50-cents a gallon.
May was the second consecutive month of improved retail sales in Michigan, according to an M-R-A survey.


(Detroit/DC-NHTSA Taurus Investigation)
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is closing its eight-month investigation into 467,000 older Ford Taurus cars that have reported problems with a speed control cable.
The NHTSA announced Sunday that it is not seeking a recall of 467,719 2000-2003 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable cars with Duratec engines after Ford agreed to a voluntary fix to prevent damage to an engine cable.
The Detroit News reports that Ford told dealers the cables are susceptible to damage or becoming partially disconnected during under hood vehicle maintenance -- like replacing a battery or changing the air filter -- and that a damaged cable could interfere with the throttle's full return to idle when the accelerator pedal is released.
Ford dealers will inspect the cables and replace those with any portion of either collar retention tab missing.
The NHTSA says it reviewed 100 complaints from owners of vehicles who had trouble braking and reports of five crashes that may have been caused by a damaged cable.


(MI-Big Tax Incentives)
Michigan has done more big tax incentives for companies than any other state.
According to a new report, "Megadeals," from the Washington, D.C.-based progressive group Good Jobs First, Michigan has the most local and state tax breaks with 29. That's followed by New York with 23; Ohio and Texas with 12 each. Forty states plus D.C. have done at least one megadeal.
Executive Director Greg LeRoy says despite their high costs, some of the deals involve little if any new-job creation. He says some are instances of job blackmail, in which a company threatens to move and gets paid to stay put.
In dollar terms, New York is spending the most, with megadeals totaling $11.4 billion. Next is Michigan with $7.1 billion, followed by five states in the $3 billion range.
For Michigan, the biggest tax break was given to Chrysler in 2010 -- $1.3 billion for a new auto plant. It was the seventh-largest megadeal on the list of 240 incentives worth $1 billion or more. GM came in next for Michigan with a 2009 tax credit worth $1.01 billion in state and local tax credits and property tax abatements for a new plant.
Both of those were during the Governor Jennifer Granholm administration.
The packages frequently reach nine or 10 figures, and the cost per job average is $456,000 and often exceeds $1 million, according to the report.


(Grand Haven-Man Overboard)
The Ottawa County Dive Team and U.S. Coast Guard Grand Haven spent much of Sunday night looking for a 47-year-old man from Walker that jumped off a boat into Lake Michigan about three-quarters of a mile offshore.
Ottawa County Sheriff's Sgt. John Wolffis says the man, named John English, was on a boat with friends traveling from Muskegon to Grand Haven. English jumped into the water after the operator of the boat stopped and asked the passengers if they wanted to swim. Wolffis says English quickly drifted away from the boat. Passengers tried to throw lines and seat cushions to him, but they never made it to him and he went underwater.
The U.S. Coast Guard Grand responded to the man overboard call within 15 minutes. The search continued until dark.
It is unclear yet if alcohol was a factor in the incident.


(Warren-Auto Worker Death)
An autopsy was scheduled to be performed Sunday to determine how a Chrysler worker died while on the job Saturday.
The 61-year-old man was found slumped over at a table at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant Saturday morning.
A Chrysler spokesperson says the man was performing quality control at a table that rotates 180-degrees when he was found.
Authorities did not release the man's identity pending notification of family.
(24/7 News Source)


(Grand Haven-Plane Crash)
The pilot of a homemade biplane was injured Sunday when the plane crashed into a tree in Grand Haven Township.
The Ottawa County Sheriff's Department says the pilot, who is not the owner of the plane, was taken to North Ottawa Community Hospital.
Officials say the plane struck the top of a tree with its wing, which was ripped off, then the plane fell to the ground near the water of Pottawattomie Bayou around 1:15 p.m. Sunday.
A resident of the property where the plane crashed called 911.
The National Transportation Safety Bureau is investigating the crash.


(Romulus-New Metro Airport Stores)
Travelers making their way through Detroit Metropolitan Airport will have some new stores to visit while waiting for their flights.
Seven new stores, including a health spa, a Detroit memorabilia shop and an upscale jewelry store are opening in concourse A in the McNamara Terminal.
Airport officials say nearly thirty more venues will open up shop by next spring. Last year, over 32-million-passengers traveled through the airport.
(24/7 News Source)


(Midland-School Performance)
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has released a report card that ranks 2,362 elementary and middle schools in Michigan.
The Context and Performance report card takes student poverty level into account, in order to better examine school performance, and is based on four years of student test scores.
The highest scoring school in the entire state was Detroit Public Schools Thirkell Elementary. Iris Becker Elementary School in Dearborn scored the best in the Small City category.
Crestwood Accelerated Program was tops in the Suburb category, Franklin Elementary School in Cadillac was the best for Town and Jamestown Elementary School in Hudsonville scored the best among Rural schools.
The Midland-based free market think tank says the report card provides a more apples-to-apples comparison of schools for parents, educators and policymakers.


(Dearborn-Ford Health Care Program)
Ford is going to launch a new program that will make health care very personal for workers who are dealing with critical illnesses.
The workers and pre-medicaid retirees chosen for the program will be assigned to nurses who will individually guide them through the health care system, and coach them on the best ways to deal with their ailments.
The voluntary program will seek to identify workers, and pre-medicaid retirees, who have chronic health problems, or at risk of those issues. It will be up to the workers physician to decide if that individual would get a benefit from the program.
About a dozen nurses have been hired. Each nurse will be assigned no more than 125 patients to work with as coach and consultant.
Ford expects 1200 to 1500 people to take part in the two year pilot program. All must be referred by their doctors.
The UAW says its discussing a similar program for active GM and Chrysler workers, but has nothing to announce now.
A similar program at Boeing helped cut the companys health care costs by 17 percent.
(Jeff Gilbert, WWJ, Detroit)


(Bloomfield Hills-Football Prayer)
A parent complaint to the American Civil Liberties Union has led to a metro Detroit area high school to ban praying on the football field during and after games.
The football team at Lahser (Lah-sur) High School in Bloomfield Hills had a tradition to kneel in prayer on the field after games. The school announced this week, that the tradition would not be allowed anymore because it could be seen as discriminatory to a minority of team members who aren't members of a certain religion.
While the reaction has been mixed, many at the school are upset that the ritual will no longer be allowed.
(24/7 News Source)


(MSU-Education Improvement)
Michigan State University has been selected as one of eight sites to host a project designed to improve science and math education.
The effort is organized by the Association of American Universities.
MSU will focus on reforming the core lecture courses with large enrollments required by all math and science majors.
Melanie Cooper, science education professor for MSU says, many students are turned off by these courses, or look at them as a difficult hurdle to clear. So a team of MSU faculty will come together to make these courses more interactive.
The AAU initiative is funded by a three-year, $4.7 million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.
The grant enabled the association to develop the new course framework, as well as provide five-hundred-thousand-dollars to each project cite.
These changes will make teaching and learning more interactive and will enhance overall student learning reducing the number of student drop outs from these majors.


(MI-MckBrdge Traffic)
Traffic on the Mackinac Bridge was up slightly last month.
Robert Sweeney, Executive Secretary of the Mackinac Bridge Authority, says that 308,440 vehicles crossed the span during the month of May compared to 307,260 in 2012, up 0.4%.
However, fare revenue is down 2.1% compared to last year.
Officials say all revenue collected is used to maintain, operate, and protect the 55-year-old bridge linking Michigan's two peninsulas.

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