State Briefs

Associated Press • Dec 27, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Price to rise for recreation passports bought at state parks

LANSING (AP) — Michigan outdoor enthusiasts are getting a new financial incentive to buy a "recreation passport" when renewing their vehicle registration each year.

The passports grant access to Michigan's state parks, trails, historic sites, boat launches and other state-managed outdoor destinations.

If you get a passport along with your vehicle registration, the fee is $11.

But beginning Jan. 1, you'll be charged an additional $5 if you wait to buy a passport until you show up at a state park. That adds up to $16, which is the rate charged by the secretary of state's office for a recreation passport purchased outside the annual vehicle registration renewal cycle.

For more information about the passport system, visit http://michigan.gov/recreationpassport .

Michigan asks higher court to intervene in license dispute

DETROIT (AP) — The state is trying to stop a court order that prevents officials from suspending the driver's licenses of people who can't afford traffic fines.

Lawyers representing the secretary of state have filed an emergency request with a federal appeals court. They hope the court will respond by Thursday.

The state says a Dec. 14 injunction by Flint federal Judge Linda Parker is a "deep, unwarranted intrusion" on Michigan's police powers. The judge said there's a strong likelihood that the due process rights of poor people are being violated when their licenses are suspended for failure to pay fines.

But the state says drivers have plenty of notice. The state also says there's no guidance from the judge about how courts are supposed to determine an inability to pay.

Michigan high court to hear arguments on guns in schools

LANSING (AP) — Michigan's high court is expected to weigh in next year on whether school districts can ban anyone not in law enforcement from carrying guns onto school grounds.

The Michigan Supreme Court last week invited school districts and gun rights groups in a disputed lower-court decision to file written arguments. Oral arguments are expected in coming months, though a hearing date hasn't been set, the Detroit News reported.

The legal battle stems from a 2016 appellate court ruling that public schools can ban guns from their premises, citing more than two dozen state laws with language referencing "weapon-free school zones." The ruling rejected a challenge by gun rights groups and parents who are licensed to carry firearms.

Gun rights advocates said the court was wrong to find Ann Arbor Public Schools and the Clio Area School District aren't in conflict with state law, which prohibits local governments from regulating gun possession.

The Ann Arbor district banned all guns on school property and school-sponsored activities in 2015 after Ulysses Wong, a parent, openly carried a firearm into a high school music concert. Under the district's rules, bringing a gun into the school would constitute an emergency and result in evacuation or other response strategies.

"We don't know the intent of anyone who's bringing a gun into one of our events or our buildings," said Christine Stead, vice president of the Education Board for Ann Arbor. "It's hard to assess that, and we don't even have the right to ask whether the person has a (concealed pistol) permit."

Michigan Gun Owners Inc. and Wong sued over the rules, arguing state law comes before local gun regulations. Michigan law prohibits most permit-holders from carrying concealed pistols into schools, but it doesn't specifically prohibit them from openly carrying their weapons.

"Regardless of how you feel about the issue, a local school board does not have more authority than the state Legislature, period," said Jim Makowski, an attorney for the gun rights group. "State law totally regulates the field of firearms."

Boiler blast cuts heat to downtown Grand Rapids buildings

GRAND RAPIDS (AP) — A boiler explosion at a steam plant cut off heat to buildings in downtown Grand Rapids, prompting a hospital to send emergency patients elsewhere.

Authorities say the blast occurred late Monday at Veolia Energy, where several windows were blown out. Firefighters say the boiler malfunctioned. A plant employee was uninjured, but taken to a hospital for a medical evaluation.

The plant produces steam which heats and cools about 130 buildings in the city's downtown area, including the city hall and courthouse.

Mercy Health Saint Mary's Hospital diverted emergency patients to other hospitals Tuesday and canceled non-emergency surgeries while it awaited a full return of heating. The hospital said no evacuations were necessary.

Veolia general manager Perry Alburg later said the plant's "system is safe and reliable."

Bill would drop restrictions on who buys drinks at VFW

PORT HURON (AP) — Private clubs such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the American Legion would be able to sell drinks to out-of-town veterans under a bill working its way through the Michigan Legislature.

Drinks technically can be sold only to local members of the clubs, although the restriction isn't always followed. Senate Bill 662 would get rid of the limit.

"Veterans will have the freedom and the flexibility to buy themselves a beer as they visit with friends and other veterans," said Andy Deloney, chairman of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. "It makes a lot of sense to make these updates to the law, and we were pleased to be part of the process."

The bill would also apply to Elks, Moose and Eagles clubs.

Under current law, veterans from out of town must rely on the generosity of others if they want a beer or something stronger. Chuck Teller, commander at Port Huron's American Legion Post 8, said he'd welcome a change to an "ancient law."

"We just wonder back in the day if the legislators were even veterans to come up with this law," Teller told the Port Huron Times Herald . "We like to stick together. We like to have our own thing."

He said a new law probably would encourage more visitors. Post 8 has roughly 400 members, down from nearly 1,000 in 2005.

Extra firearms deer hunts scheduled in 2 Michigan counties

LANSING (AP) — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says additional firearm deer hunts are scheduled for Ionia and Montcalm counties to help with chronic wasting disease surveillance.

The special hunting seasons are scheduled for Jan. 4-7 and Jan. 11-14.

The hunts will take place on public and private land in Easton, Ionia, Keene, Lyons, North Plains, Orleans, Otisco and Ronald townships in Ionia County; and in Bloomer, Bushnell, Crystal, Day, Evergreen and Ferris townships in Montcalm County.

Baiting will not be allowed during the extended seasons.

Participating hunters will be required to turn in heads of harvested deer within 72 hours for chronic wasting disease testing.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological illness that affects whitetail deer, mule deer, elk and moose.

Snowmobiler badly hurt in crash on city street in Flint

FLINT (AP) — Authorities say a snowmobiler was critically injured when he crashed into a car on a city street in Flint.

Police say the 51-year-old man was riding on a snow-covered neighborhood street when he crashed into the passenger side of a car at an intersection about noon Tuesday.

Investigators believe excessive speed was a factor in the crash and say the car's driver was cooperating with investigators. The snowmobile driver was taken to a hospital in critical condition.

Flint Police Detective Tyrone Booth says snowmobiles are not allowed on the city streets.

Woman arrested after Detroit toy giveaway leads to brawl

DETROIT (AP) — A 39-year-old woman is accused of pulling a knife on another woman during a brawl at a Christmas toy giveaway in Detroit.

WXYZ-TV and WWJ-AM estimate that a few hundred people were waiting in line on the city's northwest side Saturday night when the fight between adults broke out.

No injuries have been reported.

WXYZ-TV reports that the woman was arrested and the two children who were with her were collected by relatives from a police precinct.

Giveaway organizer John Cromer told the television station that "people are already under a lot of stress and tension this time of year" and "all it takes (is) for some people to step on somebody's shoes or to bump into somebody the wrong way and then a fight ensues."

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