Tuesday State News Summary
Tue, 02 Jul 2013 12:11:17 EDT

(MI-Auto Sales)
With strong sales from all three domestic carmakers, theres a good chance that June could see a Seasonally Adjusted Annual Sales rate topping 16 million. That would make it the best month since December of 2007.
General Motors sales were up 6.5 percent in June. Chrysler sales rose 8 percent. Ford lead the domestics with a 13 percent sales increase.
Ford saw strong sales of the F-150 pickup. It was the companys best small car month in a decade.
Chrysler sales were lead by a 39 percent increase in sales of the Dodge Durango. The Jeep Grand Cherokee, apparently unharmed by an argument over a recall of older models, saw sales up 33 percent.
GMs Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks had sales jumps of 29 and 33 percent, respectively.
Executives from the major auto companies say pent-up demand remains strong, and theres no sign that consumers have been scared off by fears of higher interest rates.
(Jeff Gilbert, WWJ, Detroit)


(Capitol-Medicaid Expansion)
The Majority leader in the Republican-controlled Michigan Senate has announced that a senate committee will meet Wednesday "to give an update" on the Healthy Michigan Workgroup, created to look at a proposal to expand Medicaid in Michigan, in conjunction with the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare."
Richardville says he will also outline a tentative summer schedule for the Senate Government Operations Committee.    
But minority Democrats say there already has been plenty of time to decide on Medicaid expansion, meaning it is now time to vote on it.
State Democrats, including US Congressman John Dingell, will also gather outside of the Senate chambers to push for a vote.
Majority Republicans have said however there will be no voting during Wednesday's session.
The expansion plan, pushed by Governor Rick Snyder, would reform Medicaid and expand eligibility to an estimated 470,000 low-income residents.


(MI-Wolf-Drive)
A coalition opposing wolf hunting in Michigan is launching a second petition drive aimed at banning the practice.
An earlier try by the coalition, which is supported by the Humane Society of the United States, was stopped by the Michigan Legislature which approved a bill that effectively disabled the effort.
The Group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected has filed petition language with the Secretary of State, which they say this time will be effective in prohibiting wolf hunting. The earlier law approved by lawmakers and the Governor empowered the Natural Resource Commission to put wolves on the game species list, something that wasn't covered in the first petition drive.
The group will need to collect 225 thousand valid signatures in order get on the 2014 ballot.
The first referendum was to overturn a 2012 law allowing a hunt and the new one rejects the 2013 law. A spokesperson for the group opposing wolf hunting will encourage voters to reject both laws.
But supporters of wolf hunting say a controlled hunt is needed in the Upper Peninsula, where they say the growing wolf population is scaring people and killing pets and livestock.


(Det-CPW-ChildPorn)
A one-time Child Protective Services employee from a Detroit suburb is charged with ordering hundreds of child porn videos from an overseas film maker.
The Detroit Free Press reports that a criminal complaint filed in U-S District Court says William Shaffer of Birmingham bought seven thousand dollars worth of videos over a five year period.
Authorities were led to Shaffer through an investigation into the film company.
The complaint also said that in 1987, Shaffer allegedly molested a boy between the ages of 8 and 9 in Westland, while he was a child Protective Services employee.   
The Free Press reports that investigators found the allegation in a police report discovered when they searched Shaffer's home last November.


(Flint-Double Murder)
A 13-year-old Flint boy has been charged with killing his older brother and his brother's girlfriend.
22-year-old Kareem Walters and 28-year-old Alexis Frazier were shot to death early Sunday morning at a house on the city's west side.
The teen is being held in the Genesee County detention center. Prosecutor David Leyton says a petition has been filed, in the juvenile system, charging the teenager with two counts of open murder and one count of felony firearm.
Because of the teen's age, Leyton says he cannot be tried as an adult. However, he can be treated as one in the Family Court system which means that if convicted the youth could be held until he is 21.
Leyton says the teen has a history of mental illness so prosecutors are also asking the court for him to be evaluated for competency and criminal responsibility.


(Capitol-Heating Assistance)
Governor Rick Snyder has signed a bill to create a fund for low-income energy assistance in Michigan.
The measure authorizes the Public Service Commission to raise up to $50 million for low-income energy assistance.
An additional $10 million from federal funds for heating assistance will be put into the Low Income Energy Assistance Fund to ensure the program can reach residents across the state.
Snyder says the bill will help provide a long-term solution to help Michigan's most vulnerable citizens with their home energy and heating needs.
It's estimated that the $50 million would be raised by a surcharge amounting to no more than $1 per month. The law also allows utilities to opt-out of the program while still prohibiting a utility from shutting off service between November 1 and April 15, a change made by the House when the bill made its way to that chamber.
The fund replaces the Vulnerable Household Warmth Fund, which expired in 2012.


(Capitol-Arms Related Manufacturing Zones)
An Upper Peninsula lawmaker wants gun manufacturers to move their operations into Michigan.
State Senator Tom Casperson has introduced legislation that would set up Arms Related Manufacturing zones across the state. It would offer tax incentives to attract firearms-makers to Michigan, similar to other efforts that targeted tool-and-die companies.
Casperson says he has already talked with several gun manufacturers about this possibility, including Colt and Stag. The Escanaba Republican says that some other states are tightening their gun rules, making it tougher for these companies to do business there.
The bills were referred to the Senate Committee on Economic Development.
(Help from: Rick Allen/WCCY/WOLV, Houghton/WTIQ, Manistique)


(Kalamazoo-Fatal Fire Charges)
The former boyfriend of a woman who lost three of her children in a fire at a Kalamazoo apartment complex earlier this year is facing criminal charges.
19-year-old Fred Glespie of Kalamazoo is expected to be charged today (Tuesday) with second-degree child abuse. Glespie and his then girlfriend, Jonetta Woods were out of the apartment at the Interfaith complex on February 18th when a fire broke out and killed Woods three-year-old twins and one-year-old daughter.
Police say Glespie was supposed to be watching the kids while Woods was away from home, but left ten minutes after she did.
On May 15th, a judge placed Woods surviving five-year-old daughter into temporary state custody after a jury determined she and Glespie had been neglectful at the time of the blaze.
One of the children started the fire accidentally.
(WBCK, Battle Creek/24/7 News Source)


(MI-Jobless Claims)
Unemployed workers in Michigan can still claim their jobless benefits even though state offices will be closed on Thursday to observe Independence Day.
The Unemployment Insurance Agency says Michigan's automated response voice interactive network, known as MARVIN, will be available to process the claims.
Unemployed workers claiming benefits in Michigan must contact MARVIN by telephone or online once every two weeks to certify that they are unemployed and meet the eligibility requirements for jobless benefits.
Individuals who contact MARVIN by telephone must do so during specific times according to a Monday through Wednesday schedule based on the last two digits of their Social Security numbers or anytime on Thursday or Friday between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. MARVIN can be reached toll-free at 1-866-638-3993.
It is also available online to those with free online web accounts at michigan.gov/uia.
Officials say because of the upcoming holiday, there may be a one or two day delay before the benefits are either directly deposited into the bank accounts or loaded onto the debit cards of unemployed workers.
The Fouth of July holiday is observed by Michigan state government and most financial institutions.


(Study-Educated Cities)
Two Michigan cities have made the list of top 20 most educated cities in the United States.
The analysis from the website "nerdwallet.com" show East Lansing ranking 11th in the country, and Ann Arbor at 17th.
The website based its study on percentages of four levels of education ranging from residents with a high school diploma up to those with a doctorate or professional degree.
An overall score was reached based on percentages of those four categories.
It found that many of the cities on the list have "underlying industries and educational resources that draw educated residents."
Bethesda, Maryland ranked number one overall.


(Sault Ste Marie-Tug Boat Sinks)
The Coast Guard has established a safety zone in the St. Marys River near Sault Ste. Marie after a tug boat sank Monday morning.
The Coast Guard says the Hammond Bay was carrying 200 gallons of diesel fuel and 15 gallons of oil.
The crew of the Bill Maier, owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, was towing the tug boat and three barges when they lost sight of the tug. They secured the three barges, and reported finding an oil sheen and a life ring from the Hammond Bay, leading them to believe the tug boat had sunk.
The Hammond Bay was found in 27 feet of water in the middle of the river. No one was aboard when it sunk.
The Coast Guard is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to minimize any environmental damage and impact to waterways from the sunken ship. They are also working on finding a way to remove the tug boat from the river.
An aircrew from the Coast Guard Air Station in Traverse City is conducting aerial assessments.
(Rick Allen, WCCY/WOLV, Houghton)


(Traverse City-Splash Pad Closed)
A ribbon cutting was held last week for the new splash pad in Traverse City's Clinch Park but now the water attrraction is shut down after a problem over the weekend caused sewage to flow into it.
The sewage backup is being blamed on a malfunctioning pump. Until the pump is replaced, the splash pad will remain closed.
The Grand Traverse County Health Department is asking people who played on the splash pad on Saturday or Sunday to watch for signs of illness.
Health officials will be monitoring the situation and continue to work with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality before any approvals are given to reopen the park.
The splash pad cost an estimated $360,000 and is part of a larger $2.6 million renovation project at Clinch Park.


(Detroit-Cleanup Project)
A newly formed non-profit agency is tackling a major problem in one of Detroit's hardest-hit neighborhoods.
The Detroit Blight Authority is planning on cleaning up a 14-block section of the Brightmoor neighborhood which will include 500 residential lots and 70 vacant buildings.
Residents say illegal dumping has been a problem for years and has led to an increase in crime.
This is the second project for the Blight Authority under the leadership of Bill Pulte (PUL-tee), who says his group has no interest in owning the land but aims at improving the quality of life for those living in the city.
(24/7 News Source)


(Grand Rapids-Consumers Scam)
Consumers Energy says someone is calling utility customers in southwest Michigan, and posing as a company representative, to try tricking people into handing over their credit-card information.
Most of the would-be victims say the scammer claims the power will get shut-off unless the customer makes a credit card payment over the phone. Some people have even said imposters are going door to door.
The Jackson-based utility says most people have declined to give their personal information to the scammers.
Customers with questions or concerns that they may have participated in a scam should call Consumers Energy at 1-800-477-5050.
(WOOD, Grand Rapids)


(MI-MSU Plane Use)
An investigation into the use of state of Michigan planes by Michigan State University is underway.
The Lansing State Journal reports the Federal Aviation Administration is starting a probe into the university's use of the planes, and also reports MSU coaches are using the taxpayer-funded planes for recruiting trips.
A review of flight logs found basketball coach Tom Izzo used the planes on average once a month, and football coach Mark Dantonio has taken 47 flights in the past five years. MSU pays for the use of the planes with money from the athletics department budget.
(24/7 News Source)

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