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ELECTION 2020-MICHIGAN PRIMARY

Early voting is underway in Michigan’s presidential primary

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Voting is underway in Michigan’s presidential primary more than a year after the option was greatly expanded through the passage of a ballot measure. But for many Democrats vying for the nomination remain focused — for now — on Iowa and other early states. The 45-day window to cast absentee ballots began Saturday. And unlike in the past, people can vote early for any reason. It is expected to lead to what the secretary of state’s office called a “significant increase” in early voting, which already was on the rise before voters approved the 2018 constitutional amendment that allowed no-excuse absentee ballots. 

DATA BREACH-HEALTH SYSTEM

Michigan health system: Ex-worker stole, shared patient data

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (AP) — A southeastern Michigan hospital system says a now-fired employee accessed and shared what was supposed to be protected personal and health information of roughly 1,000 patients with someone affiliated with a personal injury lawyer. Beaumont Health said Saturday it has informed 1,182 people about the unauthorized access of their information. It included names, contact and insurance information, reasons for medical treatment and Social Security numbers. Those whose Social Security numbers were affected were given information about a free credit-monitoring program. The worker was fired after Beaumont officials discovered the breach last month. Company officials say they have taken steps to improve internal systems and will cooperate with authorities if charges are pursued.

INDIANA MICHIGAN POWER-RATE HIKE

Michigan regulators approve smaller utility rate increase

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Michigan regulators have approved a rate increase for Indiana Michigan Power, though one significantly smaller than initially sought by the utility. The Michigan Public Service Commission approved an agreement Thursday allowing the Fort Wayne-based company to boost its Michigan customers’ rates by a total of $36.4 million annually. That’s about 38 percent lower than the proposed $58.5 million increase. Regulators say a customer who uses 500 kilowatt hours of electricity a month will see an increase of $12.14, or about 15 percent. The utility agreed not to change base rates until at least 2023. Indiana Michigan Power says the increase allows it to make significant investments. The new rates take effect Feb. 1. 

FARMER-GAY MARRIAGE

Trial expected this year for Michigan farmer suing city

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A federal trial is expected to begin later this year in the case of a Michigan apple orchard owner who sued East Lansing after he was not allowed to participate at the city’s farmers market because he doesn’t allow gay couples to marry at his orchard. Conservative Christian nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom is representing The Country Mill owner Steve Tennes. Tennes had been selling at the market since 2010 but was denied a vendor’s licence in 2017. City officials cited Tennes’ Facebook post explaining that his religious beliefs prevented the business from hosting same-sex weddings. A pretrial conference is set for August, with the trial a month later.

AP-US-FORD-TRANSMISSION-SETTLEMENT

Report: Ford to pay $30M-plus for lawsuit over transmissions

Ford will pay at least $30 million in a proposed settlement over a class-action lawsuit related to failing transmissions in its Fiesta and Focus vehicles. The Detroit Free Press reports that the lawsuit represents nearly 2 million owners and former owners of the cars. The newspaper cited court documents. Ford did not respond to a request for comment. The case was filed in 2012. The cars involved had bad dual-clutch transmissions. Final approval for the settlement is expected during a hearing on Feb. 28.

DETROIT-HOME ASSESSMENTS

Mayor: Detroit home values projected to rise average of 20%

DETROIT (AP) — Mayor Mike Duggan’s office is reporting that home values are projected to increase by an average of 20% across most Detroit neighborhoods. Residential assessments for 2020 also show that property values are up 30% in several parts of the city. The city says the figures are based on two years of actual market sales and that homeowners are protected by a 2% cap on property tax increases as long as ownership has not changed. Property owners can appeal assessments until Feb. 22. Detroit residential property values rose an average of 13% last year.

ZIP LINE INJURY

Sibling loses appeal over injury from backyard zip line

WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan appeals court says a zip line is covered under the state’s recreation law, a distinction that gives some legal protection to landowners if someone is injured. The decision came in a lawsuit by a woman who needed surgery after injuring her knee while zip lining in her brother’s yard in Oakland County. A person on a zip line wears a harness and flies through the air on a cable. A judge had dismissed the lawsuit in favor of Arthur Rott, and the appeals court agreed. The court said Rott’s actions were “not grossly negligent” or willful misconduct.

FATAL FIRE-NORTHERN MICHIGAN

Michigan couple dies in burning house trying to save dogs

KALKASKA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Authorities say a couple died as they tried to rescue their two dogs from their burning home in northern Michigan. Kalkaska County sheriff’s officials say the fire broke out early Thursday morning at the Kalkaska Township home of Brian and Sheryl Curry. The Currys got out safely but went back inside the burning home to rescue their dogs. Firefighters and deputies say they tried to save the couple but had to pull back because of dangerous conditions. Their bodies later were found in the house. The dogs also died. Officials say the cause of the fire is being investigated.

RAP VIDEOS-CONVICTION

Michigan court reverses murder conviction, cites rap videos

DETROIT (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court has thrown out a murder conviction, saying YouTube rap videos spoiled the verdict by portraying the defendant as a “ruthless and menacing threat.” Jamal Bennett is serving a 32-year prison sentence for the fatal shooting of another man during a fight at a Grand Rapids party. A Kent County jury saw two videos at trial with Bennett and others rapping about drinking, smoking, guns, shootings and sex. Prosecutors said the videos were intended to show that Bennett knew people at the party. Bennett said he was trying to defend others when the shooting occurred.  

SEXUAL ASSAULTS-ARREST

Man arrested after sexual assaults near Michigan State

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A man has been arrested in connection with the robbery and sexual assault of three women in an apartment complex near Michigan State University. East Lansing police officials say the man, whom they did not identify, was jailed awaiting charges. He was described by investigators as college-age, but it wasn’t clear if the women were college students. The man entered an apartment early Friday through an unlocked door in the complex about 1.5 miles north of the university. The man, armed with a revolver, sexually assaulted the women and stole electronic devices, officers said. Investigators said the women’s injuries weren’t life-threatening. They were treated by emergency workers and at a nearby hospital.