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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Feb 21, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Whitmer keeps intact 2 environmental panels in new order

LANSING (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday changed direction — for now — and issued an environmental order that keeps intact two business-backed panels that are charged with oversight of state rule-making and permitting.

The move came less than a week after the Republican-led Legislature took the rare step of rejecting her original order to reshape and rename the Department of Environmental Quality, largely because it would have abolished the two commissions that were created under 2018 laws enacted by the GOP.

Whitmer, who contends the committees will add bureaucracy to the regulatory process, noted that she is awaiting Attorney General Dana Nessel's determination on whether the panels are legal. Nessel's opinion would bind state agencies unless it was reversed by a court.

One panel oversees environmental rule-making — though the governor ultimately has the final say — while another can approve, modify or reverse permit decisions that have been challenged by companies or other parties.

Whitmer's new order is largely the same as her initial one. It renames the agency as the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and creates new public advocacy offices for clean water and "environmental justice" to investigate complaints about water quality and help ensure fair consideration of low-income and minority community interests.

Detroit’s Cobo Center to remove name of ex-mayor with racist past

DETROIT (AP) — Detroit's Cobo Center, which hosts the auto show and other major events, is changing its name to remove the surname of a former mayor known for his racist policies, officials announced Wednesday.

The Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority announced it has sold Cobo Center's naming rights to Detroit-based Chemical Bank in a 22-year deal that will generate $1.5 million annually. The new name will be announced later this year, after Chemical Bank's holding company acquires another financial institution.

In the meantime, the center's prominent exterior digital signage will combine the center and bank names.

Authority Chairman Larry Alexander, who also serves as president and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, said he sees the move as "killing two birds with one stone" — making the right decisions financially and socially.

Albert Cobo, who served as mayor from 1950-57, sought to keep blacks out of predominantly white neighborhoods. The convention center opened on the Detroit River waterfront in 1960, three years after Cobo died.

2 Michigan State trainers face complaints in Nassar case

EAST LANSING (AP) — Two Michigan State University athletic trainers face administrative complaints alleging they lied to investigators in the Larry Nassar sex abuse case.

State officials said the complaints involve the trainer licenses of Destiny Teachnor-Hauk and Lianna Hadden.

The complaints state students informed both about discomfort during treatments by Nassar. Licensing officials said Teachnor-Hauk and Hadden denied being told that by students.

Teachnor-Hauk and Hadden can file responses to the complaints. Sanctions include fines, license suspension and revocation.

An MSU spokeswoman says the school is reviewing the complaints.

Man convicted of killing wife inside marijuana grow room

ST. JOSEPH (AP) — A man who authorities say fatally shot his wife inside a marijuana grow room in their southwestern Michigan home has been convicted of murder.

A jury returned the verdict Tuesday against John Lewis in a Berrien County courtroom. He faces life in prison without parole when sentenced March 25.

Authorities said John Lewis killed 55-year-old Carla Lewis in 2017 in their Niles Township home near the state's border with Indiana and then called 911, saying two men had broken into the home, killed her and fled in her car.

Lewis' defense maintained the men were to blame for her death. Defense lawyer Jolene Weiner-Vatter noted that no murder weapon was ever found.

Prosecutors argued John Lewis was having affairs and stood to get a life insurance windfall from her death.

Man dies after 911 calls for help go unanswered, lawsuit claims

CANTON TWP. (AP) — The widow of a man who died after suffering a heart attack is suing two suburban Detroit 911 operators after emergency calls were missed because the volume on a 911 line was turned down or off.

Former Canton Township employees Rachel Rowell and Joshua Choroba are named in the suit which seeks $25 million.

It says staff at a health care facility called for an ambulance 13 times on March 1, 2018, for 69-year-old Stephen Greene. An ambulance was dispatched once the 911 system was turned back on or up and the calls answered. Greene died the next day.

The township's attorney said Wednesday that the lowered volume caused an eight-minute service delay.

Canton Township is not named in the lawsuit.

Committee convened to provide input on election reforms

DETROIT (AP) — Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has put together a committee to advise her administration and Michigan's Elections bureau on election reforms.

Benson's office says the Election Modernization Advisory Committee includes county, city and township clerks from across the state, Michigan-based voting rights advocates, and local and national election experts.

The committee is to provide input, suggestions and feedback on the execution of reforms related to Proposal 3, which was passed by voters in November 2018. Proposal 3 involves changes to Michigan's election laws, including the institution of absentee voting for any reason, automatic voter registration, and the ability to register up to and on election day.

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