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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • May 23, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Wealthy DeVos family won't back GOP congressman in primary

GRAND RAPIDS (AP) — The politically powerful DeVos family said Wednesday that it is no longer financially backing a West Michigan congressman who is the first Republican on Capitol Hill to accuse President Donald Trump of impeachable conduct.

Nick Wasmiller, a spokesman for the family's RDV Corp., said family members have not made campaign contributions to five-term Rep. Justin Amash this political cycle and have no plans to do so.

Amash is facing a primary challenge for the first time since 2014, when billionaire members of the DeVos family — who live in Amash's Grand Rapids-area district — gave his campaign roughly $65,000 while others in the business community backed his challenger. Although Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has halted all of her political spending since joining Trump's Cabinet, others in the family — heirs to the Amway marketing empire — are still major GOP donors.

Two pro-Trump candidates — state Rep. Jim Lower and military veteran Tom Norton — are running against Amash, while others are considering whether to jump in.

Amash, who has libertarian views, was elected in 2010 as part of the tea party wave that toppled Democratic control. He was one of the founding members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which this week voted to condemn Amash but declined to oust him from its ranks.

Lame-duck ballot drive law is unconstitutional, AG says

LANSING (AP) — Michigan's attorney general said Wednesday that a Republican-enacted law making it harder to put proposals on the statewide ballot is unconstitutional, declaring that lawmakers had no authority to impose a geographic limit on circulating petitions.

Democrat Dana Nessel's opinion binds state officials unless it is reversed by a court. A legal fight is expected soon, because groups want clarity before launching ballot drives as soon as this summer.

The law was enacted in December's post-election "lame-duck" session, and followed an unprecedented maneuver by GOP lawmakers and then-Gov. Rick Snyder to weaken minimum wage increases and paid sick time requirements that began as ballot initiatives. The law also came a month after voters passed three Democratic-backed proposals to legalize marijuana for recreational use, curtail the gerrymandering of congressional and legislative districts, and expand voting options.

The law imposes a geographic requirement on groups trying to gather voter signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Police, FBI exhume remains to try to close homicide cases

CANTON TWP. (AP) — Detroit and state police have exhumed unidentified bodies buried at a cemetery to try close old homicide cases.

Detroit police Sgt. Nicole Kirkwood said investigators exhumed seven sets of remains Wednesday at Knollwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Canton Township.

Police said they're taking DNA samples from the bones and will try to match them to possible missing persons' cases. Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Sarah Krebs, who heads the state's missing persons unit, said the DNA samples will be sent to the University of North Texas for analysis.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said DNA technology has improved since the unidentified bodies were buried.

Knollwood Memorial Park Cemetery Park had a contract with Wayne County for 24 years to bury cadavers whose identities were unknown.

Michigan priest facing allegation of misconduct with minor

SAGINAW (AP) — A priest with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saginaw is on administrative leave while church officials investigate an allegation of misconduct with a minor.

The decision regarding the Rev. Dennis Kucharczyk was announced Tuesday. The diocese said the alleged misconduct "occurred many years ago," and he was placed on leave Sunday after church officials received information from law enforcement.

A release says Kucharczyk cannot have contact with anyone under age 21 or serve in priestly capacities during the investigation.

Kucharczyk is pastor of St. John XXIII Parish, which includes Hemlock, Merrill and Ryan churches. He also served churches in Caro, Caseville, Pinnebog, Midland, Linwood and Saginaw.

Woman's church ceremony doesn't upset alimony, court says

PONTIAC (AP) — A state court says a church ceremony that resembles a wedding isn't a marriage if there's no license.

The decision by the Michigan appeals court is worth $120,000 a year to Karen Lueck. She was divorced in 2014 and is entitled to alimony for 10 years unless she remarries.

A pastor at First Congregational Church of Traverse City performed a Christian marriage ceremony for Lueck and her partner, Matthew Bassett. They exchanged vows and rings, but didn't seek a marriage license.

Oakland County Judge Lisa Gorcyca cut off Lueck's financial support in 2017, saying her actions were "fraudulent and manipulative." But the appeals court this week threw out Gorcyca's decision and reinstated the alimony.

The court says Lueck's ceremony wasn't a new marriage without a license.

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