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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Apr 12, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Judicial panel recommends Livingston County judge's removal

BRIGHTON (AP) — A judicial watchdog agency has recommended the Michigan Supreme Court remove a Livingston County judge for misconduct.

The Judicial Tenure Commission on Thursday also asked the high court to order District Judge Theresa Brennan to pay costs, fees and expenses of more than $35,000 because of "her intentional representations and misleading statements" to the commission.

The agency found Brennan tampered with evidence in her own divorce case, lied under oath and failed to disclose her relationship with a Michigan State Police detective who was a witness during a murder trial before her.

Brennan was barred from hearing cases last June after the commission filed its formal complaint. She has continued to receive pay and benefits.

A message seeking comment was left for her attorney.

Secretary of state outlines plan to address long lines, broken kiosks

LANSING (AP) — Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said she will unveil changes designed to shorten wait times and fix broken self-service kiosks at branch offices where people renew driver's licenses and conduct other business.

Benson, who took office in January, visited all 131 branch offices. She released her findings Thursday, her 100th day on the job.

The Democrat said one-third of self-service stations were broken and in general were difficult to use. She said many customers have to wait in line far too long to access basic state services.

Among Benson's plans are exploring multi-year license plates and automatic driver's license renewals. She recently pulled down an online appointment system available in some branches because it was giving customers inaccurate wait times, but her office has begun redeploying the technology.

Proposed human rights ordinance targets biased crime reports

GRAND RAPIDS (AP) — A proposed human rights ordinance in Grand Rapids includes penalties for violators, including those who dial 911 to try to use police to enforce their own bigotry.

The proposed ordinance was developed during months of work, WOOD-TV reported, and a public hearing is planned for April 23 before the City Commission.

Grand Rapids Diversity & Inclusion Manager Patti Caudill said the "Biased Crime Reporting" section of the ordinance would target "the crying wolf when you see somebody who doesn't look like you in your neighborhood and you immediately call the police." A violation could be punishable by up to a $500 fine.

Protected categories in the proposed ordinance would include age, ancestry, creed, conviction record, disability, color, gender identity and expression, among others.

Tests find chemicals at Detroit site of new US-Canada bridge

DETROIT (AP) — Officials say toxic industrial chemicals known as PFAS have been found in soil and groundwater in Detroit at the site of construction for a new bridge between the U.S. and Canada.

Officials say they are ensuring that plans for soil movement and stormwater related to the Gordie Howe International Bridge project addresses the presence of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Jeff Cranson said there've been "no construction delays nor timeline adjustment because of the testing."

The Canadian-financed span over the Detroit River linking Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit is expected to open in 2024. The privately owned Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel are the only current commuter crossings between the cities.

Agriculture report shows fewer but larger farms in US

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The latest Census of Agriculture shows the number of farms and ranches in the U.S. has fallen, but the remaining operations are larger and are responsible for a higher percentage of agricultural sales.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released the 2017 Census of Agriculture on Thursday, marking the 29th release of the report since the government began collecting the data in 1840. Since 1982, it has been released every five years.

The census shows there were 2.04 million farms and ranches in 2017, down 3.2 percent from 2012. The average size of those operations was 441 acres, an increase of 1.6 percent.

About 75 percent of all sales came from only 105,453 of those farms, down more than 14,000 from 2012.

The average age of producers was 57.5.

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