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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Jun 7, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Michigan Legislature repeals state's prevailing wage law

LANSING (AP) — The Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature on Wednesday rescinded the state's decades-old law that guarantees higher wages for construction workers on government projects, quickly enacting the repeal initiative rather than letting it go to a public vote.

Although Gov. Rick Snyder opposed the measure, it was veto-proof because it was initiated through a ballot drive by nonunion contractors.

The prevailing wage law requires paying the local wage and benefit rate — usually union scale — on state-financed construction of schools, university dorms and other public works projects. Michigan is the fifth conservative-led state to annul its prevailing wage law since 2015.

The repeal will take effect immediately but not affect existing contracts. It includes a $75,000 appropriation, making the measure immune from a voter referendum.

"The time has come to eliminate this outdated law and save our taxpayers money," said Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, a West Olive Republican who has long pushed to repeal the measure that was enacted in 1965. Other GOP lawmakers called the law a government-mandated "carve-out" and a "price-fixing scheme."

Democrats voted against the legislation, saying it will result in lower paychecks and that it makes no sense as Michigan tries to address a shortage of tradespeople.

Divers search Black River in Port Huron for 2 missing men

PORT HURON (AP) — Police divers were searching the Black River in Port Huron for two men reported missing in the waterway.

The St. Clair County Sheriff's Office said a man in a pontoon boat jumped into the river at about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday after seeing another man in the water. Both men disappeared beneath the surface.

The Coast Guard told the Times Herald of Port Huron that people on the pontoon boat and another boat in the area reported the incident.

The Coast Guard and Port Huron Fire Department were unable to find either man.

In addition to the dive team in the river, sonar was being used late Wednesday afternoon in the search.

Andrews University to shutter dairy farm after 100 years

BERRIEN SPRINGS (AP) — A university in southwestern Michigan is shutting down its dairy farm business, which has operated for more than a century.

The Andrews University Board of Trustees voted Monday to focus on the farm's food crops and shutter its dairy operations next year, the Herald-Palladium of St. Joseph reported.

The farm began its dairy production in 1907 with a small herd of between 40 and 50 cows, milked by hand. The farm grew the herd to more than 700 cattle over the years.

"Our state-of-the-art dairy has attempted to thrive in an environment where there has been an overall and very significant downturn in the dairy industry in recent years," the university reported following an extensive study of its dairy farm and the market for dairy products. "The demand for milk and milk products has fallen nationally, (and) dairy producers have increased their herd sizes, and now large distributors, such as Walmart, plan to create their own mega-dairies."

According to the university, income from the farm's dairy production has dropped considerably, leading to financial losses over the last three years. A year-long analysis determined that the market wouldn't improve enough to allow the dairy farm to break even, the university stated.

Michigan DEQ develops website on emerging water contaminants

LANSING (AP) — Michigan officials have developed a website to update the public about efforts to identify an emerging class of water pollutants.

The state Department of Environmental Quality says the website has information about per- and polyfluorinated substances, also known as PFAS.

PFAS compounds are used in food packaging and many consumer products. They're also found in firefighting foam used by airports and the military.

The website features sections on PFAS and human health, water testing and treatment, and investigations underway around the state.

The site will also host results from a statewide survey of PFAS levels in public water supplies. The $1.7 million survey is the first comprehensive, state-driven study of its kind.

Officials have sampled water at more than 30 Michigan sites where PFAS-containing materials were used or disposed.

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