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State Briefs

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

Michigan jobless rate unchanged at 4 percent in January

LANSING (AP) — Michigan's unemployment rate was unchanged at 4 percent in January.

Figures released Thursday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget show the January rate matched the U.S rate, which rose by one-tenth of a percentage point during the same period. Michigan's January 2019 jobless rate compared with a January 2018 rate of 4.5 percent.

The state agency said total employment in Michigan in January rose by 11,000, while the number of people unemployed rose by 2,000, resulting in a labor force increase for the month.

Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives Director Jason Palmer said the Michigan unemployment rate has remained near 4 percent since last summer, but total employment and the number of payroll jobs have increased since then.

Michigan fruit growers vote to continue research program

LANSING (AP) — Apple, cherry, peach, and plum producers in Michigan have voted to continue a tree fruit research and development program.

The initiative was established in 2014 to boost the competitiveness of Michigan's tree fruit industry. It supports fruit research stations, plus study and extension programs.

It's run by nine producers appointed by the governor. The director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development is a non-voting member, as is Michigan State University's dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Officials said 171 valid ballots were cast in the referendum on whether to continue the program an additional five years, with 120 voting yes and 51 voting no.

House speaker: 45-cent-a-gallon gas tax hike is 'nonstarter'

LANSING (AP) — A top lawmaker says Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's proposed 45-cents-a-gallon fuel tax increase is a "nonstarter" for Republicans.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield said Thursday that residents "cannot afford it" and are "furious." His comments come a day after Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey also criticized the Democratic governor's plan.

Whitmer said raising gasoline and diesel taxes is the "smartest, quickest" way to generate the $2 billion-plus annually needed to fix roads that will worsen if nothing is done, but she is open to other ideas as long as they provide a "real solution."

Chatfield said Michigan should ensure that all taxes paid at the pump go to roads. Much of the sales tax on fuel goes to schools and local governments. He said House Republicans will propose a road-funding plan.

Isabella County man faces charge after more than 60 dogs removed

BLANCHARD (AP) — Authorities said a man is facing an animal cruelty charge after about 60 dogs were removed from a mid-Michigan property.

The Isabella County Prosecutor's Office said animal control officials were tipped off about the dogs. Levi Yoder, 41, of Blanchard was arraigned this week on a charge of abandoning/cruelty to animals.

Yoder's lawyer, Tom Weiss, said the dogs were in a heated pole barn in an Amish community, and they believe the dogs were in good health and treated well.

Prosecutors said the dogs lived in unsanitary conditions at the property. They said some were kept in small crates and covered with feces and urine.

The Humane Animal Treatment Society announced last week that many dogs were brought to the Isabella County Animal Shelter. They're being cleared for adoption.

Woman gets year in prison in cover-up of slaying, mutilation

MOUNT CLEMENS (AP) — A woman who pleaded guilty to helping her ex-boyfriend cover up the shooting death and mutilation of his childhood friend in southeastern Michigan has been sentenced to a year in prison and three years of probation.

Eevette MacDonald, 20, was sentenced Thursday after entering her plea in December 2018 to being an accessory and to exhumation and mutilation of a body, WDIV-TV reported. MacDonald apologized for "being cowardly and not coming forward with the information that I had."

A jury in February convicted Andrew Fiacco, 21, of second-degree murder in the killing of 19-year-old Stephen McAfee. Fiacco is awaiting sentencing.

Prosecutors said Fiacco shot McAfee twice in the head in a remote Bruce Township field in March 2016, and then dismembered his body and buried some of the remains on family property.

Washtenaw County keeping 17-year-olds out of adult jail

ANN ARBOR (AP) — Older teens facing criminal charges in the Ann Arbor area will be moved out of a jail and away from adults.

Washtenaw County says 17-year-olds awaiting trial or a sentence for non-violent crimes will be housed in a juvenile detention facility, even if they're charged as adults in local courts.

Sheriff Jerry Clayton said placing teens with adults in jail "does not make our communities safer." He said a juvenile facility can better offer age-appropriate services.

There are efforts in the state Capitol to pass legislation that would classify 17-year-olds as minors, not adults, in Michigan's criminal justice system. Washtenaw County says it's taking "incremental steps" by treating older teens differently while in custody while lawmakers discuss broader possible changes.

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