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SCHOOL GRADES

Michigan House approves A-F letter grades for public schools

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan would create a letter-grading system to evaluate public schools under legislation that has narrowly advanced in the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature.

The House voted 56-53 for the bill early Thursday during a marathon lame-duck session. The measure moves to the Senate for consideration next week.

The state Department of Education would be tasked with giving each school a grade in several areas. But there would be no overall single grade for a school.

The Republican sponsor says Michigan needs a “kick in the pants” to improve education, while Democratic critics say the bill would do “nothing” to help students or teachers.

MICHIGAN LEGISLATURE-LAME DUCK-THE LATEST

The Latest: Michigan House OKs bill to limit ballot drives

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A lame-duck bill that would make it harder to organize ballot drives has passed in the Michigan House as it advances in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The House approved the legislation late Wednesday on a 60-49 mostly party-line vote. It would impose a geographic threshold for groups proposing constitutional amendments, initiated bills and referendums. They would be limited to collecting no more than 15 percent of their signatures from a single congressional district — a change from a 10 percent threshold passed earlier by a House committee.

Critics oppose the bill as unconstitutionally hampering the ability to pursue ballot drives. But business groups supporting the legislation say it is needed.

The Republican-led Senate could vote next week before adjourning the Legislature’s two-year session.

SEXUAL ASSAULT-PLANE

Man facing long prison sentence for ‘brazen’ plane assault

DETROIT (AP) — Federal prosecutors are seeking nearly 11 years in prison for a man convicted of sexually assaulting a sleeping woman while they sat next to each other on a flight to Detroit.

Prabhu Ramamoorthy is returning to Detroit federal court Thursday. He’s been in the United States on a work visa and eventually will be deported to India because of the conviction.

He was accused of molesting a woman with his hands while she slept on an overnight Las Vegas-to-Detroit flight last January. Ramamoorthy was in a middle seat while his wife was sitting next to the aisle. Prosecutor Amanda Jawad calls it a “brazen” assault.

Defense attorney James Amberg says Ramamoorthy’s “life as he knew it is over.” He’s seeking a prison sentence of less than 10 years.

LAKE MICHIGAN SHIPWRECK

Waves, shifting sands reveal Lake Michigan shipwreck

WHITEHALL, Mich. (AP) — The remains of what could be a shipwreck from 1878 have emerged through sand along Lake Michigan in western Michigan.

Experts say the wood ribbing might be a section from the LC Woodruff, a schooner that sank near Whitehall while carrying corn 140 years ago.

Allan Dake, a researcher at the Muskegon Heritage Museum, says the shipwreck didn’t wash ashore. He tells MLive.com that the wreck has stayed in place but now is exposed because of waves and currents. It also happened in 1942 and 1974.

People have been visiting the site after seeing photos on social media.

Valerie van Heest of the Michigan Shipwreck Research Association says the wreck won’t be visible for long. She tells WXMI-TV that it “may be gone with the next storm.”

ABORTION DRUGS-TELEMEDICINE BAN

Bill to extend abortion telemedicine ban sent toward Snyder

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Legislation moving toward Gov. Rick Snyder would make permanent a ban against Michigan doctors prescribing abortion-inducing drugs remotely.

The Republican-controlled House passed the bill almost entirely along party lines early Thursday after it won Senate approval weeks ago.

A 2012 abortion law includes a provision requiring physicians to conduct a physical exam of a patient wanting a medical abortion, which is when drugs are used to end a pregnancy. They cannot use other means, including a webcam, to diagnose and prescribe a medical abortion. And they must be present when the drugs are dispensed.

That section and another one mandating that certain information be given to the patient are due to expire after Dec. 31. The legislation would extend the requirements and prohibitions indefinitely.

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Online:

Senate Bill 1198: http://bit.ly/2FLkUkr

DEMOCRATIC PARTY-CHAIRMAN

Michigan Democratic Party chairman won’t seek re-election

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon won’t seek re-election to his position.

Dillon, a former state lawmaker from Grand Rapids, announced his decision Wednesday. Democrats will choose a new leader at a convention in February.

He has led the party since 2015.

Democrats last month flipped the governor, attorney general and secretary of state offices at the same time for the first time since 1936 and made gains in the Republican-controlled Legislature. Democrats also flipped two congressional districts and a state Supreme Court seat, and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow won re-election.

Dillon says he’s proud of the winning operation built with chief operating officer Lavora Barnes. He says the party’s in its strongest position in decades and it’s time for another leader to take the party to “the next level.”

5G BILLS

Snyder signs bills to ease shift to 5G wireless technology

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation to ease the wireless industry’s shift to next-generation technology in Michigan.

The laws enacted Wednesday establish statewide regulations and fee limits for the installation of a dense network of “small cells” on telephone poles, traffic signals and other infrastructure.

The measures are backed by carriers such as Verizon and AT&T that want faster internet speeds and more network capacity, but opposed by local governments as an infringement on their ability to recover costs for the use of public rights of way.

Michigan is the 21st state to enact laws that streamline regulations to facilitate the deployment of fifth-generation, or 5G , small cells, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Online:

Public Acts 365-66: http://bit.ly/2rxmo87

OPIOID SCHEME

Alleged ringleader in opioid scheme jailed without bond

DETROIT (AP) — A judge has refused to grant bond to a 77-year-old Detroit-area doctor who is charged with being at the center of a multimillion-dollar scheme to peddle opioids and bill insurance providers for unnecessary treatments.

A federal magistrate judge says Dr. Rajendra Bothra, a native of India, might flee the country if released.

An indictment unsealed last week says Bothra and five other doctors prescribed opioids to induce people to visit. The indictment says patients were forced to undergo other treatments. Nearly $500 million was billed to insurers, mostly Medicare and Medicaid.

Bothra operated pain clinics in Warren and Eastpointe. He’s charged with conspiracy, fraud and other crimes.

Defense attorney Thomas Cranmer is appealing the decision to keep Bothra detained. He says Bothra can be monitored with an electronic tether.

GRASSLAND PROTECTION

Program encourages protection of Michigan’s grasslands

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A new program is designed to protect Michigan’s disappearing grasslands, which are now among the rarest wildlife habitat types in the world.

The state Department of Natural Resources is teaming with Pheasants Forever and other groups on the Adopt-A-Game-Area program.

It encourages individuals and organizations to sponsor grassland habitat projects on state-managed lands they use. The first to be sponsored is the Maple River State Game Area, which includes portions of Clinton, Gratiot and Ionia counties.

DNR game bird specialist Al Stewart says grasslands provide important food resources and living spots to many wildlife species including deer, turkeys, rabbits and songbirds. They also improve water and air quality.

They’re especially valuable for crop pollinators such as bees and monarch butterflies. But many are being converted to agriculture and development.