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Case could upset a key source of cash for local courts

DETROIT (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court is hearing a dispute over $1,611. But the result will carry a much higher price, impacting millions of dollars now raked in from criminal defendants.

They must pay to keep the heat turned up, the air conditioners humming and the floors waxed in local courts all over the state. Michigan law gives local governments sweeping authority to put a portion of court operating costs on the backs of people convicted of crimes.

The question for the Supreme Court on Monday is whether the law amounts to an illegal tax.

About $80 million was collected statewide in 2016 and 2017, with 80 percent coming from hundreds of thousands of District Court cases. The Michigan Association of Counties calls it a “user fee,” not a tax.


AAA: Michigan gas prices fall 12 cents to $2.49 per gallon

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — AAA Michigan says average gas prices statewide are down 12 cents in the past week to about $2.49 per gallon ahead of the Thanksgiving travel period .

The Dearborn-based auto club says early Monday the average price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline is at its lowest level since February amid continued declines in oil prices.

AAA says gas prices in Michigan for Thanksgiving are at their lowest level in two years.

The state’s highest average was $2.71 per gallon in the Marquette area. The lowest was in the Grand Rapids, Holland and Muskegon areas at $2.34 a gallon.

The Detroit-area’s average was down about 12 cents from a week ago to about $2.55.

AAA Michigan surveys daily fuel prices at 2,800 gas stations across the state.




Kresge grant to help Detroit Repertory Theatre fundraising

DETROIT (AP) — The Kresge Foundation has given $50,000 to a $500,000 fundraising campaign in support of the Detroit Repertory Theatre’s operations.

Theater officials hope to complete the fundraising campaign over the next three years as Bruce Millan prepares to step down after 61 years as artistic director. The 194-seat theater is in a west side neighborhood.

Marketing and Development Director Leah Smith says the fundraising “is intended to stabilize finances over the next three years and ramp up staffing to sustain the theater well into the future.”

The fundraising campaign would expand staffing to seven paid positions.

Smith is in training to take over the artistic director position. She says Millan will step down “once the funds come in to replace key staff.”

The Troy-based Kresge Foundation is a private, national foundation.


Michigan State offers housing for substance abuse recovery

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State University has joined a list of universities nationally that provide on-campus housing to students in recovery from substance abuse disorders.

The East Lansing school says its Collegiate Recovery Community is in a residence hall on the north side of campus. A resident assistant, intercultural aid and peer recovery specialist also live in the hall and provide support to the students.

Officials say students must abstain from drugs and alcohol to be eligible for recovery housing. They add the housing is important because college stresses can threaten recovery.

Features include individualized recovery planning, sober social events, community service opportunities and life skills workshops.

The university says it’s the first in Michigan to offer such housing. It follows others such as Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers.


Detroit considers new name for Ben Carson high school

(Information from: Detroit Free Press,

DETROIT (AP) — A black conservative group is criticizing the Detroit Board of Education for its decision to consider renaming a school named after Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the board voted 6-1 last week to seek a new name for the Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine.

A black conservative group, Project 21, said in a news release Friday the decision was a “purely political act” that “ignores” the Detroit native’s accomplishments.

The school was named before Carson became President Donald Trump’s HUD secretary. The neurosurgeon gained renown for successfully performing surgery to separate Siamese twins who were joined at the head.

Board member LaMar Lemmons has been among those advocating a change, citing opposition to Trump’s administration among Detroit residents.



Detroit public housing to get surveillance program

DETROIT (AP) — A surveillance program that’s raised concerns about privacy and efficiency will come to Detroit’s public housing program this year.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Project Green Light’s cameras feed into the city’s Real Time Crime Center. The Detroit Housing Commission and police are working on an agreement to bring 26 cameras to two high-rise towers that have an “elderly and near-elderly community.”

The commission predicts that transitioning to Project Green Light will cost $66,000, which will be covered by federal funds.

Those against the project are concerned about a lack of privacy and a lack of evidence that the cameras actually stop crime.

Kevin Sheppard lives at one of the complexes that will be seeing the cameras. He says the cameras should instead be added at a location that sees drug sales.


Water authority starting maintenance tech apprenticeships

DETROIT (AP) — The Great Lakes Water Authority is starting a nearly 4-year apprenticeship to train maintenance technicians.

It hopes to hire up to 20 workers who make it through the program. Classes are scheduled to start in January.

On-the-job training and education will be provided. Apprentices completing the program will receive guaranteed employment within the water system in an area where they received training.

The authority says it’s committed to launching a new U.S. Department of Labor apprenticeship program each year until the system’s remaining needs are met to ensure a trained and sustainable workforce. Last year, a 3-year apprenticeship was started to train workers for jobs as electrical instrumentation control technicians.

The authority provides water and wastewater services to 127 communities in southeastern Michigan, including Detroit.


Man ordered to repay more than $200,000 in theft from trucks

(Information from: WTVA-TV,

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — A Tennessee man has been ordered to pay nearly $218,000 to cover the cost of merchandise he and four other stole from commercial trucks.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mills sentenced 31-year-old Bryan Lucas earlier this month to three years of probation, plus the payment of restitution to truck lines and insurers.

Lucas and four other men have pleaded guilty to roles in a conspiracy to steal trailers at truck stops in Mississippi, Tennessee and other states.

WTVA-TV reports that among locations where trailers were stolen in Mississippi included Fulton, Oakland, Hickory Flat, Baldwyn and Okolona.

The merchandise was driven to a warehouse in Nashville and unloaded before being transported to Michigan.

The items taken included personal hygiene products, food, motor oil and antifreeze.



GOP seeks last-ditch laws in states where its power slipped

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — With their grip on power set to loosen come January, Republicans in several states are considering last-ditch laws to weaken Democrats and advance a conservative agenda.

Michigan Republicans want to water down a minimum wage law they approved before the election so it would not go to voters and now be easier to amend.

Republicans in neighboring Wisconsin are looking to dilute Democrat Tony Evers’ power before he takes over for Gov. Scott Walker. And in North Carolina, Republicans may hash out the requirements of a new voter ID law before they lose their legislative supermajorities.

Republicans downplay the tactics. But some of the steps they’re expected to take will almost surely be challenged in court, and critics say such maneuvers undermine the will of people who voted for change.


Midterm elections reveal effects of gerrymandered districts

The midterm elections have provided a case study on partisan gerrymandering that shows how the drawing of district boundaries can affect who’s elected to Congress.

Earlier this year, courts in Pennsylvania and North Carolina declared their congressional districts to be unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. Districts were re-drawn by a court in Pennsylvania, but not in North Carolina.

On Nov. 6, voters elected nine Democrats and nine Republicans under Pennsylvania’s new map — a significant shift from the 13-5 GOP majority under the old map drawn by Republican.

In North Carolina, the congressional delegation retained a 10-3 Republican majority under a map drawn by Republicans. And that’s despite an almost even split in the popular vote between Democrats and Republicans.