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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Mar 22, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Michigan jobless rate unchanged again at 4 percent

LANSING (AP) — Michigan's unemployment rate held steady at 4.0 percent in February, the fifth consecutive month it has remained unchanged.

Figures released Thursday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget show the state's jobless rate a bit higher than last month's national unemployment rate of 3.8 percent.

In February 2018, Michigan's jobless rate was 4.4 percent.

State Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives Director Jason Palmer said, "Michigan's monthly jobless rates have remained below year-ago levels." Palmer also said the state recorded job recalls in the auto sector in February, but the gains were partially offset by job declines in construction.

Michigan House bill would lower drunken-driving limit to 0.05

LANSING (AP) — Newly introduced legislation would make Michigan the second state to lower its drunken-driving limit to a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.05 percent.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is supporting the House bill that was proposed by Democrats on Thursday. It would drop the limit to 0.05 percent, from 0.08 percent — the limit in 48 other states.

Utah's 0.05 threshold took effect in December 2018.

MAAD President Helen Witty said critical driving skills are impaired at a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.05.

The sponsor, Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, D-Dearborn, said more must be done to prevent "a completely avoidable epidemic." He points to how five Michigan family members were killed in January when a suspected drunken driver headed the wrong way on I-75 in Kentucky.

Michigan governor seeks federal support for flood recovery

WHITE CLOUD (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is asking the U.S. Small Business Administration to conduct flood damage assessments in Newaygo County.

The assessments requested Thursday would pave the way for an administrative disaster declaration and could make low-interest loans available to eligible residents and businesses affected by heavy rainfall and snowmelt. The loans can help repair or replace real estate, personal property, equipment, inventory and business assets that were damaged or destroyed.

Whitmer on Tuesday declared a state of emergency for Newaygo County to make all state resources available.

The White River and the Muskegon River receded this week after overflowing their banks following heavy rain. Officials have said more than 130 homes and businesses were damaged.

Severe weather in Michigan came amid floods elsewhere in the Midwest.

Priest acquitted of sexual assault charges

SAGINAW (AP) — A 72-year-old Michigan priest has been acquitted of sexually assaulting two teens with his hands in the first of three trials.

There were gasps Thursday as the jury's verdict was announced.

The Rev. Robert DeLand testified in his own defense and denied the allegations during a two-day trial in Saginaw County.

A teen said he was shaking DeLand's hand at a memorial service in 2017 when the priest reached toward his groin.

Another witness said DeLand took him out of class in 2017 and took him to an empty room at Freeland High School. He said DeLand gave him $20 and slid a hand down his back to his buttocks.

DeLand told jurors, "I would not do that."

DeLand pleaded no contest to charges last September but withdrew the plea.

Paternity scheme involved dead rats, cow tongue, prosecutor says

MOUNT CLEMENS (AP) — Authorities said a man took extraordinary steps to avoid responsibility for a child, even paying $500 to another man to assume his identity and take a paternity test.

The Macomb County prosecutor filed charges against Ken May, who is accused of paying another man to get a driver's license in May's name and take a DNA test.

Investigators say it worked — until the child's mother watched surveillance video and told police that the man who took the test wasn't May.

May is also accused of putting dead rats and a cow's tongue outside the mother's door after she helped unravel the scheme.

Prosecutor Eric Smith calls the case "egregious."

May is charged with tampering with evidence, intimidating a witness and other crimes.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun named Michigan's chief medical executive

LANSING (AP) — The director of Detroit's health department will become Michigan's chief medical executive.

The appointment of Dr. Joneigh Khaldun was announced Thursday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon.

Khaldun, a practicing emergency physician at Henry Ford Hospital, will start the job April 15. She will be a member of Whitmer's Cabinet and — as chief deputy health director — oversee population health, medical services, and other areas within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Whitmer said Khaldun "will bring strong expertise, diverse experience and deep passion to state government."

Khaldun has led several coordinated public health responses, including Detroit's handling of the largest Hepatitis A outbreak in Michigan history.

Man killed in auger accident at southern Michigan farm

WATERLOO TWP. (AP) — Authorities said a farmer working on a manure spreader has died after being caught in an auger.

It's the second recent death of a Michigan farmer caught in an auger.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office identified the victim as 63-year-old Rex Hannewald of Waterloo Township. The accident occurred Wednesday. The man's injures were too severe for treatment.

A 42-year-old man died last week in Montcalm County while drilling holes to relieve flooding from melting snow. His clothes were snagged in an auger.

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