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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Mar 2, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Michigan Legislature OKs $175M infusion into roads, bridges

LANSING (AP) — The Michigan Legislature on Thursday unanimously approved a $175 million infusion into the state's roads, a 7 percent boost over existing spending and a bid by lawmakers to accelerate a two-year-old deal to improve deteriorating transportation infrastructure.

The legislation, which Gov. Rick Snyder will sign, also includes $1 million for state Attorney General Bill Schuette's investigation into how Michigan State University handled past allegations against now-imprisoned Larry Nassar, a campus sports doctor who molested gymnasts and others under the guise of treatment.

State and local road agencies were due to receive $2.5 billion for road and bridge work this fiscal year. Under the measure, they would get $175 million more — with the state and counties receiving 39 percent each, and cities and villages getting 22 percent, per an existing formula.

Before voting, senators debated the effectiveness of a $1.2 billion road-funding deal that was enacted in 2015 and is being phased in by 2021. It includes a mix of higher fuel taxes, registration fees and — starting later this year — annual transfers of general funds to the transportation budget.

Republicans rejected a Democratic proposal to shift $275 million from savings to pump a combined $450 million more into roads this year.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, a West Olive Republican, said it was "disingenuous" for Democrats to complain about funding when they opposed the 2015 plan.

Man charged in Saginaw fire that killed his mother, sister

SAGINAW (AP) — A man who authorities say set a fire in Saginaw that killed his mother and sister has been charged in the deaths.

The Saginaw News reported that Jason Enrico Desmone, 38, was arraigned Thursday on charges including first-degree murder. He's accused in the Feb. 12 fire that killed 71-year-old Adair Smithpeters and 41-year-old Melissa Shook.

"If you intentionally set a house on fire when people are sleeping in it, there's a real good likelihood they're going to perish in the fire," Michigan State Police Lt. David Kaiser said.

Desmone, who escaped the fire, was ordered held without bond. Court records didn't list a lawyer for him in the case.

The home had been condemned shortly before the fire.

Fatal shooting by police fugitive team ruled justified

BATTLE CREEK (AP) — A prosecutor says the fatal shooting of a man being sought by a fugitive apprehension team in southern Michigan was justified.

Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbert said in an opinion released Wednesday to the Battle Creek Enquirer that officers "violated no criminal law" in the Jan. 22 shooting death of 36-year-old Joshuah Prough. Gilbert said they "acted in lawful self-defense."

Prough was shot by members of the Michigan State Police Fifth District Fugitive Team, who were attempting to arrest him on several felony warrants. Gilbert's review found that officers forced open the door of an apartment and were confronted by Prough, who pointed a loaded handgun at them.

The newspaper said 15 bullets were removed from Prough's body and an autopsy found he had 24 wounds. No officers were injured.

Detroit suburb can't limit sidewalk signs by abortion protester

CENTER LINE (AP) — A Detroit suburb has agreed to stop interfering with an abortion protester who displays a sign with images of aborted fetuses.

A judge in December 2017 granted an injunction in favor of Michael Mattia. Now he and the City of Center Line have settled a lawsuit.

Ordinances that restrict signs on public sidewalks in Center Line are unconstitutional as applied to Mattia. Police told him his sign was disturbing the peace on a "psychological level." But Mattia said his free speech rights were violated.

Center Line will pay $1 to Mattia and $50,000 to his lawyer.

Federal Judge David Lawson signed the agreement Wednesday. The judge said the First Amendment protects against a "heckler's veto" by people who simply don't like the content of speech.

Kalamazoo city manager recommends removal of fountain

KALAMAZOO (AP) — A southwestern Michigan city official is recommending the removal of a park fountain that some say celebrates white supremacy.

Kalamazoo City Manager Jim Ritsema on Thursday said the Fountain of the Pioneers in Bronson Park near the city's downtown should be removed and a new plan developed for the park.

The fountain features a European settler with a weapon in his hand towering over a Native American. Some residents said the piece is racist, while others argue that it's a work of art that can teach people about history.

Ritsema said growing outcry from activists and indigenous people over the fountain shows Bronson Park isn't being enjoyed by all. The statue on the fountain was vandalized in November 2017.

The Kalamazoo City Commission will consider the recommendation on March 5.

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