LANSING (AP) — Republicans who control Michigan's Legislature voted Wednesday to advance a measure that strips campaign-finance oversight power from the Democratic secretary of state-elect, and they moved to give lawmakers authority to stand up for GOP-backed laws if they think the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general are not adequately defending the state's interests.
The lame-duck moves followed within hours of similar efforts in Wisconsin, where lawmakers voted earlier Wednesday to shift clout to the Republican-controlled Legislature and weaken the Democrat replacing the GOP governor.
Michigan Democrats in January will jointly hold the governor, attorney general and secretary offices for the first time in 28 years, but the Legislature will continue to be controlled by Republicans.
A day after GOP lawmakers finalized an unprecedented maneuver to gut minimum wage and paid sick leave laws, a Senate panel passed legislation that would create the Fair Political Practices Commission to enforce the campaign-finance law rather than Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson, who ran in part on a pledge to advocate for election transparency.
Democrats called the bill, which could clear the full Senate today, a blatant power grab that would fly in the face of voters.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has not taken a position on the measure or others.
Grand Rapids police chief quitting after 4 years
GRAND RAPIDS (AP) — The police chief in Michigan's second-largest city is resigning after four years in the job.
The Grand Rapids city manager said David Rahinsky wants to move closer to family. A news conference is planned for today.
Rahinsky was police chief in Franklin, Tennessee, when he was hired in Grand Rapids in 2014. A year ago, he was runner-up for the chief's post in Punta Gorda, Florida, a much smaller city. He spent nearly 20 years working in Florida and has family in southern Florida.
City Manager Mark Washington said Rahinsky has made the Grand Rapids Police Department a "model for other law enforcement agencies."
Rahinsky’s last day in office is Dec. 18.
West Michigan man charged in body dismemberment
GRAND RAPIDS (AP) — A man has been charged in the dismemberment of a woman in his apartment in Grand Rapids.
Police said they found body parts outside Jared Chance's apartment and in the basement of the building on Sunday, as well as blood inside his home.
Authorities have not provided the woman's identity. Police are investigating whether it's the body of a Kalamazoo-area woman who was traveling to Grand Rapids and was last seen Nov. 29.
Chance, who has a criminal record, appeared in court Wednesday. He's charged with mutilating a dead body and concealing a death. He is not charged in the woman's death.
Chance was not accompanied by a lawyer who could comment on the charges.
McDonald's franchisee fined $26K for teens working too long
JACKSON (AP) — The government says a Michigan operator of 10 McDonald's restaurants has paid a $26,000 penalty for keeping teens on the job for too long.
The Labor Department says 73 minors, who were 14 or 15 years old, worked more than three hours on days when school was in session. They also worked more than eight hours when school wasn't in session. The government says it was a child-labor violation.
The 10 McDonald's restaurants are operated by Stejoca Inc. of Jackson. Investigators also found that some teens worked after 7 p.m. or 9 p.m. during the summer.
The government says the franchisee has adopted a new system that tracks hours worked by certain teenagers.
Woman pleads guilty to stealing $86K in Chavez statue money
LANSING (AP) — A former director of the Michigan Hispanic/Latino Commission faces up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing nearly $86,000 that was set aside for a Lansing statue to honor farm labor leader Cesar Chavez.
The Lansing State Journal reported that Maria Louisa Mason, 82, pleaded guilty Wednesday to embezzling money that included state tax dollars and private donations. The Chavez statue has not been built.
Authorities said the money was transferred to bank accounts that Mason controlled and used to pay credit card bills, taxes and other personal expenses. The scheme spanned several years and lasted until June 2015.
Mason retired in 2015 from state government work. She must repay the money and will be sentenced Jan. 23.
Michigan wants farms to give up free but risky natural gas
LANSING (AP) — The state of Michigan is urging farmers to give up free natural gas.
The Michigan Agency for Energy says 129 properties, mostly in the center of the state, are tapping into natural gas wells or pipelines for free. But the state says there are risks, especially if there's a leak. The lines don't give off a rotten egg smell that warns people about a problem.
The state also says unprocessed gas can damage appliances and potentially cause fires.
The energy agency is offering up to $1,500 to replace appliances that may have been damaged by unregulated gas. Farm owners must show that they've signed up with a utility or are using propane or pellets. The incentive ends Dec. 17.