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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Dec 21, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Michigan GOP lawmakers vote to give themselves more power

LANSING (AP) — Michigan Republicans voted Thursday to give themselves a power to intervene in court cases that now is reserved for the state attorney general, the latest measure pushed through a lame-duck session that critics say would weaken the power of Democrats or voters.

The bill, approved 26-12 almost entirely along party lines in the Senate, was poised to move to the desk of GOP Gov. Rick Snyder following a final vote from the House in the closing hours of the session.

It is seen by opponents as an attempt to undercut Dana Nessel, who will be the first Democratic attorney general in 16 years and who has said she may not defend state laws she believes are unconstitutional. Republicans have disputed the allegation, saying the legislation would ensure that the legislative branch has a voice as more laws are challenged in the courts.

Nessel issued a statement saying the proposal was never properly vetted and warning it would have a "disastrous impact."

Another item on the GOP agenda was a bill that would toughen rules for citizen-initiated ballot drives. It follows voters' passage of Democratic-backed proposals last month and Republicans' unprecedented move to weaken minimum wage and paid sick time laws that began as ballot initiatives.

The legislation and the laws already signed by Snyder could curb the left's power at the ballot box, while sweeping laws in Republican-controlled Wisconsin will weaken incoming Democratic officeholders.

Former prosecutor gets night in jail after crash, cover-up

GRAND RAPIDS (AP) — A former assistant prosecutor in West Michigan has been sentenced to a night in jail for a 2016 crash that led to the firing of a police lieutenant and the suspension of two other officers accused of covering up the man's intoxication.

Josh Kuiper was also ordered Wednesday to serve more than a year of probation after a jury found him guilty of misdemeanor reckless driving. He apologized, saying it's "no fun when you're on the other end."

Kuiper resigned after the crash, which injured a man in a parked car.

Telephone recordings released last year revealed that a Grand Rapids police officer told then-Lt. Matthew Janiskee that Kuiper appeared intoxicated. Kuiper wasn't asked to take a Breathalyzer test and wasn't charged with drunken driving. Police gave him a ride home.

Suspect in custody shot, killed inside headquarters, police say

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A man suspected of killing his grandmother in the Detroit area was shot and killed inside Toledo's police headquarters Thursday after he rushed at officers and grabbed one of their stun guns, police said.

The man, who wasn't handcuffed at the time, was being let out of a holding cell so he could use the restroom when he grabbed the stun gun during a struggle, said Toledo Police Chief George Kral.

One of the officers fired a single shot into the chest of Damon Barstad, 23, of Warren, Michigan, Kral said. None of the officers were injured, police said.

Barstad was arrested early Thursday at a motel in Toledo.

Police in Warren said Barstad was wanted in the stabbing death of his 68-year-old grandmother, whose body was found Wednesday night in a recycling bin inside the garage at her home, just north of Detroit. Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer said the woman, whose name wasn't released, appeared to have suffered stab wounds to her neck. Investigators believe she was killed Saturday.

No cause of death determined for body found in sewer line

LANSING (AP) — Authorities in mid-Michigan still are unsure of how a 33-year-old man whose decomposing body was found in a sewer line died.

The Lansing State Journal reported that a second autopsy has not provided answers in the death of Danny Lee Tamez.

Lansing police spokesman Bob Merritt said the case remains under investigation, but foul play is not suspected. A medical examiner ruled the cause of death as undetermined and the manner of death indeterminate.

Tamez's body was found Aug. 21 about a half-mile from the Grand River during a routine check of the sewer system. The Lansing man was reported missing after police asked for the public's help in identifying the remains.

Flint students getting laptops thanks to Musk Foundation

FLINT (AP) — Flint students in the seventh and eighth grades will be getting laptops, thanks to a donation from the Elon Musk Foundation.

The announcement was made Wednesday at a Flint school board meeting. The foundation is giving about $424,000.

Derrick Lopez, superintendent of Flint schools, said the Musk and Mott foundations "have been amazing" to the district. Flint schools are using a separate Musk grant of $480,000 to for water filtration.

Musk is the CEO of Tesla Motors and the head of SpaceX. The entrepreneur also is testing an underground transportation tunnel in Los Angeles.

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