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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Jan 10, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Michigan's 100th Legislature kicks off 2-year term

LANSING (AP) — Michigan's 100th Legislature has begun its two-year session.

Republicans opened the term Wednesday with smaller majorities in both chambers following the November 2018 election. They will have to contend with a Democratic governor for the first time since 2009-10, the last time Michigan had a divided government.

Legislative work is unlikely to progress much until Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivers her first State of the State address on Feb. 5 and proposes her first budget in early March. There are also a lot of new lawmakers who need to learn the ropes.

A record number of women, 53, are serving in the Legislature.

Families joined legislators during ceremonial swearing-in events on Wednesday.

Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, was officially elected speaker of the House. Eight former speakers joined him to mark the historic 100th session.

McCormack is named chief justice of Michigan Supreme Court

LANSING (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court has selected Bridget McCormack to serve as chief justice.

The court said the vote was unanimous Wednesday.

McCormack, a former law school professor, has been a Supreme Court justice since 2013.

In a statement, McCormack said Michigan courts "must be accessible to all" and "independent of political pressure." She is one of three Democrats on the Supreme Court.

The longest-serving justice, Stephen Markman, was chief justice in 2017 and 2018. Spokesman John Nevin said he didn't seek the job again.

The court said Justice David Viviano has been named chief justice pro tem. He will focus on technology and statewide administrative changes to improve service to the public.

Man charged in November shooting death of fellow hunter

BELLAIRE (AP) — A hunter who authorities say accidentally shot and killed another hunter in Michigan's northeastern Lower Peninsula on the first day of the state's annual firearms deer season last year is facing charges.

David Michael Barber, 45, was arraigned Wednesday in 86th District Court on charges including involuntary manslaughter and careless discharge of a firearm causing injury or death, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported.

Barber's lawyer Daniel Hartman offered "condolences to the family."

The state Department of Natural Resources has said conservation officers responded Nov. 15 to a reported hunting accident in near the Antrim County community of Alden. The DNR said 38-year-old Justin Beutel of the Midland County community of Sanford was pronounced dead at the scene.

The DNR has said the men were hunting separately.

Michigan approves Consumers Energy EV charging program

JACKSON (AP) — Michigan's Public Service Commission has approved Jackson-based Consumers Energy's PowerMIDrive electric vehicle charging program.

The three-year, $10 million pilot program supports the state's growing electric vehicle market through new rates, rebates and customer education.

The program includes a Nighttime Savers Rate to encourage drivers to charge their electric vehicles between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. Residential drivers who sign up for the nighttime rate will be offered a $500 rebate for each electric vehicle.

Consumers Energy also will offer $5,000 rebates for chargers installed in public areas such as workplaces and multi-unit dwellings.

Natural Resources Defense Council senior attorney Mark Nabong said the "program can help more people access electric cars as a clean, cheaper alternative to gasoline cars."

Michigan State creating new fund for Nassar victims

EAST LANSING (AP) — Michigan State University says it's creating a new fund to help victims of sports doctor Larry Nassar, months after a similar program was suspended over fraud allegations.

Trustees responded to critics and voted unanimously Wednesday to help victims with the cost of counseling and mental health services. Trustee Dianne Byrum said a dollar amount and other details will be established later.

The previous $10 million fund was announced in 2017. But it was suspended and ultimately shut down by interim President John Engler, who said more than $500,000 was linked to fraud. Campus police said fraudulent claims weren't made by Nassar's victims.

Engler said the balance of more than $8 million would be put toward a $500 million lawsuit settlement with hundreds of women and girls. Nassar was sentenced to decades in prison for assaulting them with his hands.

Reporter who helped foil robbery finds missing woman, police say

SHELBY TWP. (AP) — A radio reporter who helped police catch a robbery suspect last week followed up with another good deed by finding an 89-year-old suburban Detroit woman with dementia who had wandered away from home in sub-freezing temperatures.

WWJ-AM reporter Mike Campbell was covering Barbara Kasler's disappearance when he spotted her Wednesday morning in her pajamas and slippers along a street in Shelby Township. Campbell took Kasler into his vehicle and cranked up the heat until police arrived. She was taken to a hospital for observation.

Campbell said he was just "in the right place at the right time," but police tweeted that "We owe you lunch!"

Last week, Campbell helped police apprehend a man suspected of looting a fire-damaged shopping center in the Detroit suburb of Warren.

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