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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Jun 13, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Legislature OKs $56.8B budget with more for schools, roads

LANSING (AP) — The Republican-led Michigan Legislature put the finishing touches on a $56.8 billion state budget Tuesday that includes a sizable increase in base aid for lower-funded K-12 districts, more spending on roads and extra funding to better protect schools from shootings.

The spending plan also closes a state prison and sets aside $100 million for Gov. Rick Snyder's plan to link students with in-demand jobs.

The two main budget bills won approval on mostly party-line 63-46 and 66-43 votes in the House and 33-2 and 25-11 votes in the Senate.

While majority GOP legislators touted record spending on K-12 schools and road infrastructure, Democrats criticized the lack of a special fund to compensate recipients of unemployment benefits who were falsely accused of fraud and faulted a provision that could lead to teacher cuts in districts with low-performing schools that do not improve.

Nassar-related laws to give victims time to sue signed into law

LANSING (AP) — Lt. Gov. Brian Calley on Tuesday signed two bills inspired by the Larry Nassar scandal, including one giving childhood sexual abuse victims more time to sue.

The current cutoff to file a lawsuit in Michigan is generally a minor victim's 19th birthday, which critics say is out of step with other states and does not account for how many victims are afraid to report abuse or have suppressed it.

Starting in three months, people who were sexually abused as children will be able to sue until their 28th birthdays or three years from when they realize they have been abused. Victims of Nassar, the imprisoned former sports doctor who worked for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, will get a 90-day window to sue retroactively.

As part of a $500 million settlement with Michigan State University, Nassar’s hundreds of accusers agreed to withdraw their support for legislation that would have eliminated the immunity defense in lawsuits for entities that are negligent in the hiring, supervision or training of employees, or if the governmental agencies knew or should have known and failed to report sexual misconduct to law enforcement.

Marquette utility burns last bits of coal

MARQUETTE (AP) — A power station that generates electricity for the Marquette area in the Upper Peninsula has burned its last pieces of coal.

The Shiras Steam Plant was turned off last Friday. Marquette Board of Power and Light instead is relying on a power plant that uses natural gas for fuel. The city-owned utility also will buy electricity from other sources.

The Mining Journal said workers will be placed at other Power and Light properties.

The newspaper said the Shiras plant was considered one of the cleanest coal-fired plants in the country, based on emissions. Its future use hasn't been determined.

The Marquette Board of Power and Light serves nearly 17,000 customers.

Officials abandoning township offices built on landfill

BRIDGEPORT TWP. (AP) — Governmental offices built years ago atop a landfill in central Michigan are being abandoned.

The building in Bridgeport Township was constructed about 35 years ago and closed in April after workers complained of nausea and being lightheaded.

Environmental studies later showed methane gas from decomposing organic matter was seeping inside. Soil beneath the building also is shifting as the matter decomposes.

Officials have decided to shift operations from the building after learning short-term costs that include sealing it from the methane, adding ventilation and shoring up its foundation could top $600,000.

Most employees relocated to a public works building and are expected to move to temporary offices at a former church as officials consider long-term options.

Slain teen remembered in high school's commencement

ARMADA (AP) — A Macomb County high school left a chair empty at commencement in memory of a 14-year-old girl who was killed four years ago and would have graduated this spring.

April Millsap's favorite colors, white and pink, decorated the vacant seat where she likely would have sat among Armada Area Schools' Class of 2018.

The high school presented an honorary diploma to April's mother, Jennifer Millsap, in a special ceremony at last week's commencement, the Times Herald reported.

"I thought it was a very touching gesture for them to think about April," Millsap said. "I'm just very touched by the thought that the school put into remembering her even after four years."

April was found dead in 2014 along the Macomb Orchard Trail in Armada, where she had been walking her dog, Penny.

James VanCallis, 36, was convicted of first-degree murder and other charges in April's killing and was sentenced two years ago to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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