Monday State News Summary
Mon, 18 Mar 2013 12:26:35 EDT
Governor Rick Snyder today (Monday) signed into law legislation that overhauls Michigan Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which allows it to convert into a mutual insurance company.
The plan includes a commitment by the company to contribute nearly $1.6 billion worth of investments over the next 18 years to the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to promote the overall health and well-being of all Michiganders.
Snyder says the changes ensure that quality health care will remain affordable and accessible.
The package does not include language that prohibited abortion coverage without a special optional rider being purchased. The anti-abortion language was the reason for the Governor's veto last year.
The legislation also guarantees $120 million from 2016 until 2021 to subsidize payments for Medigap coverage. In the future should the Blues be sold or change its corporate structure, it would be required to pay into the fund the greater amount of either the acquisition price or the company’s fair market value as of that time.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has been opposed to the legislation, saying it will have a negative impact on hundreds of thousands of Michigan seniors who rely on Blue Cross for Medigap coverage.

(MI-Gas Prices)
Michigan motorists will find the average gas price rose almost seven cents this week.
Triple A Michigan reports the current statewide average is now $3.77 per gallon, but that's almost 20 cents less than at this same time last year.
The Auto Club says that the lowest average price among the cities it surveys, was found in the Flint area at just over three-dollars-70 cents per gallon. The highest are in the Jackson area at nearly three-dollars-82 cents.
Dearborn-based 'Triple A Michigan' surveys two-thousand-800 Michigan gas stations daily.

Among Michigan's major metropolitan areas, three-dollars-70-point-four cents in Flint, three-dollars-71-point-two cents in Traverse City, three-dollars-73-point-seven cents in Saginaw/Bay City, three-dollars-74-point-seven cents in Marquette, three-dollars-75-point-six cents in Lansing/East Lansing, three-dollars-76-point-five cents in Benton Harbor, three-dollars-76-point-six cents in Metro Detroit, three-dollars-77-point-seven cents in Grand Rapids/Muskegon, three-dollars-81-point-two cents in Ann Arbor and a statewide high of three-dollars-81-point-six cents in Jackson.

(MI-2012 Traffic Crashes, Fatals)
State Police say while Michigan traffic crashes and injuries were down in 2012, fatalities increased 5 percent over 2011 from 889 to 936.
According to the department's Criminal Justice Information Center, the number of traffic crashes fell 4 percent to 273,891 from 284,049 in 2011. Injuries were down 2 percent to 70,519 from 71,796 in 2011.
Motorcyclist fatalities were up 18 percent over 2011, alcohol-related fatalities were up 3 percent to 281 and drug-involved fatalities increased 6 percent to 135. However, teen fatalities declined 14 percent, from 99 in 2011 to 85 in 2012.
State Police Director Colonel Kriste Kibbey Etue says despite an increase in traffic deaths last year, this is the fifth year in a row Michigan had fewer than 1,000 traffic deaths. Ten years ago there were nearly 1,300 people who died as a result of traffic crashes in the state.
Among other findings in the report, cell phone-involved crashes decreased 9 percent, from 821 in 2011 to 748 in 2012. But cell phone-related fatal crashes increased from six in 2011 to eight in 2012. Bicyclist fatalities were down 17 percent, from 24 in 2011 to 20 in 2012. Pedestrian fatalities decreased 5 percent, from 140 in 2011 to 133 in 2012.
The state has experienced significant decreases in traffic crashes over the past decade, from 395,515 in 2002 to 273,891 in 2012. similarly, alcohol- and/or drug-involved fatalities have dropped from 463 in 2002 to 342 in 2012.

(MI-Pure Michigan Ads)
The 2013 Pure Michigan national cable television advertising campaign kicked off today (Monday).
The campaign, which will run through the end of June, includes five private sector partners - Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Mackinac Island, The Henry Ford in Dearborn and Traverse City - as well as the launch of the Pure Michigan summer video series.
The $13 million budget is the largest ever dedicated to promoting Michigan as a tourism destination nationally. The five national partners contributed $3 million towards the nation-wide campaign with Ann Arbor contributing $1 million.
The Pure Michigan television commercials will air nationally more than 5,000 times combined on nearly 30 cable networks.
George Zimmermann, Vice President of Travel Michigan, says the largest gains in visitors and visitor spending in recent years have come from a growing number of out-of-state visitors and they expect that trend to continue into the future in part because of the national advertising campaign.
The summer video series features six warm weather activities and attractions in Michigan, including biking, golfing, fishing, wineries, lighthouses and sand dunes.

(White Pigeon-Paper Mill Fatal)
A 61-year-old White Pigeon man died late Sunday morning while working at White Pigeon Paper Company.
The man was identified as Robert Knight. Police were called after workers reported that an employee was missing, and it was feared that he had fallen into a vat.
It is undetermined if Knight died of natural causes or work related. An autopsy is planned.
(WLKM, Three Rivers)

(Auburn Hills-Chrysler Recall)
Chrysler is recalling its 2013 Dodge Challengers with V-6 engines. Anyone who owns one of the vehicles is advised to stop driving it immediately.
There is a problem with a wire harness that can cause the car to overheat and start a fire. There have been seven incidents reported already. The cars being recalled were built before January 24.
Approximately 25-hundred have been sold.
(Metro Source)

(MI-Autism Plan)
State officials have unveiled a plan to address the needs of Michigan residents living with autism spectrum disorders.
The Michigan Department of Community Health estimates there are 16,000 students with ASD in the public school system and 50,000 individuals and their families living with ASD in the state.
The Michigan Autism Spectrum Disorders State Plan calls for increased autism screening by primary care and early childhood providers. It also calls for developing ways to increase the number of professionals and health care centers capable of handling crisis intervention for both children and adults related to autism.
The plan calls for a resource center to act as an information clearinghouse for professionals and families. There could be more coordination among university research efforts related to autism. University faculty could help develop ways to make more autism-specific information available in education, medical and social science programs.
Michigan law now mandates that insurance companies provide coverage for autism treatment and diagnosis.
Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, who has a daughter with autism, says part of the issue may be that there are not many behavioral therapists in Michigan doing the work - although those numbers seem to be increasing now with the changes in state law. Calley said it’s also possible that some insurance companies are choosing to provide the autism coverage as part of their normal coverage.

(Marquette Co-Child Porn)
An elderly Upper Peninsula man has been sentenced to 63 months in federal prison for possession of child pornography.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles, Jr. says 70-year old Roger White of Grand Marais was also ordered to serve five years of supervised release following his release from prison, and to pay a $300 fine and a $100 special assessment. White will also be required to register as a sexual offender.
White pleaded guilty to the charge last October.
An investigation into White's activities stemmed from his brief subscription to a child pornography website in 2008. The investigation ultimately led to a search of White's computer and compact disks. That search revealed that White had downloaded and stored thousands of images, as well as videos, of child pornography via the internet over a period of several years.
The case is part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse.
(Aaron Harper,WJNR/WOBE/WHTO, Iron Mountain)

(Bay Co-Garage Explosion, Fire)
Residents in a neighborhood south of Pinconning say an explosion and fire woke them up shortly after 3:00 a.m. this morning (Monday).
First emergency crews on scene reported an unattached garage was engulfed in flames and threatening a house 20 feet away.
The northern Bay County garage was destroyed and there was some extension of the fire into the house. No word on the extent of damage and a loss estimate.
Pinconning-Fraser firefighters called for additional help from Mount Forest Township and Standish Fire Departments.
No one was reported injured by the Pinconning Township blaze.
(WSGW, Saginaw)

(Baraga Co-Child Sex Abuse)
An Upper Peninsula man is headed to federal prison for sexual abuse of a minor.
31-year-old Brian Loonsfoot of Baraga was sentenced to 78 months in prison after pleading guilty to the federal charge last November.
Loonsfoot’s sentence will begin after his release from a Wisconsin prison, where he is serving a sentence for sexual abuse of the same victim.
The investigation revealed that Loonsfoot, who was 28 years old at the time of the offense, had sexual relations with a 12-year-old girl who was a close friend of his family. The incidents happened in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and on the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community reservation.
In September 2011, Loonsfoot pleaded guilty to one count of second degree sexual assault of a child under 16. He was sentenced to seven years in prison by a Wisconsin court in December, 2011.
(Rick Allen, WCCY, Houghton)

(Colon-Appliances Cause Fire)
Officials from the Michigan State Police Fire Investigation unit have determined faulty kitchen appliances were the cause of a March 8 fire that destroyed two businesses in downtown Colon in southwest Michigan.
Sgt. Scott LeRoy said the investigation traced appliances in the rear of Curly’s Bar as the source of the fire, which destroyed the business and an adjacent real estate office.
Five Star Pizza, located to the east of Curly’s, sustained smoke and water damage. Electricity is in the process of being restored, as the service will allow crews to begin clean-up efforts in the pizza shop.
Insurance investigators are expected to sort through the remains at the bar and realty office. Whether the businesses will rebuild has not yet been confirmed.
(WLKM, Three Rivers)

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