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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • May 11, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Thumb county won't pursue opioid makers

BAD AXE (AP) — A county at the tip of Michigan's Thumb is bucking a trend: It won't join a lawsuit against the makers of opioid drugs.

Cities and counties across Michigan are suing drug companies and retailers over the consequences of excessive opioid use. They want the companies to reimburse them for the costs of responding to the crisis.

But Huron County won't participate after a unanimous vote this week by commissioners. The Huron Daily Tribune said officials are concerned about the time it would take to determine the costs. County attorney Stephen Allen said it could take a full work week.

Allen said there would be additional commitments when the litigation picks up steam.

Child dies after fall from tractor in southwestern Michigan

BRADY TWP. (AP) — Authorities said a toddler has died after falling from a moving tractor in southwestern Michigan.

The Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office said the accident occurred Wednesday evening on private property in Brady Township.

Police identified the child as 2 ½-year-old Mason William Heikes of Vicksburg.

Details about the fall weren't immediately released. The death is under investigation.

Michigan prohibits sale of 'whip-its' to minors

LANSING (AP) — Kids hoping to get high off laughing gas will no longer be able to acquire the means to do so in Michigan under a law signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The governor approved legislation Thursday to prohibit the sale or distribution of devices intended to hold nitrous oxide to minors. Commonly known by the street name "whip-its," these containers have surged in popularity due to the temporary buzz produced from inhaling the gas.

Those who fail to adhere to the sales ban will face a maximum $500 civil fine.

The Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police testified in support of the bills, citing abuse of laughing gas as the root of multiple injuries and at least one death in the state.

New state law says sex criminals cannot attend same school as victim

LANSING (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder has signed a law prohibiting students convicted of criminal sexual misconduct from attending the same school as their victims.

The legislation approved Thursday requires permanent expulsion of any pupil who commits a sex crime against another pupil in the same public school district, regardless of the attack's location. The perpetrator also cannot return to the same school building or school bus as the victim.

Rep. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, sponsored the legislation in response to a Livingston County case in which a 16-year-old convicted of raping multiple classmates sought return to his school upon release. In December 2017, The Detroit News reported he was ultimately barred from campus due to terms of his probation, but not until after alarm spread through the community over his possible return.

Senate: Defendants must listen to victim impact statements

LANSING (AP) — Michigan's Senate has passed a bill requiring defendants to listen to victim impact statements, diminishing the chances the man convicted of killing Rebekah Bletsch will be able to walk away from such statements during his next murder trial.

Lawmakers voted unanimously Thursday for the legislation created to honor Bletsch, a 36-year-old who was murdered in 2014 while jogging in Muskegon County. In December 2017, her convicted murderer, Jeffrey Willis, left the courtroom during victim statements while blowing a kiss and flashing an obscene hand gesture.

Should Gov. Rick Snyder sign the legislation, which first goes back to the House, it could become law should Willis be sentenced in another trial unfolding now. He's accused of murdering 25-year-old Jessica Heeringa.

Willis' attorney said no evidence connects his client with the crime.

Flags being lowered for state Superintendent Brian Whiston

LANSING (AP) — Flags are being lowered today in honor of state Superintendent Brian Whiston, who led the Michigan Department of Education since 2015.

Gov. Rick Snyder ordered that U.S. and Michigan flags to be lowered to half-staff within the state capitol complex for Whiston, who died Monday at age 56. Snyder is encouraging Michigan schools to lower flags in honor of Whiston's career in education.

Whiston died at his home. He had gone on long-term disability leave last week after being treated for cancer since last fall.

Whiston previously was superintendent in Dearborn, Michigan's third-largest district, and lobbied for Oakland County's intermediate district.

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