Local News Archives

Legislature Guts Minimum Wage, Sick Time Laws

From the Associated Press — The Republican-led Michigan Legislature has passed bills that would delay a minimum wage hike and scale back paid sick leave requirements. It is an unprecedented lame-duck strategy that was endorsed legally by the state’s conservative attorney general Tuesday despite criticism that it is unconstitutional. The fast-tracked legislation was pushed through on largely party-line votes.
Changes were made at the request of Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who stayed mum on whether he will sign the measures but whose involvement was seen positively by their supporters. To prevent minimum wage and paid sick time ballot initiatives from going to the
electorate last month, after which they would have been much harder to change if voters had passed them, GOP legislators — at the behest of business groups — preemptively approved them in September so that they could alter them after the election with simple majority votes in each chamber. Democrats say the maneuver is unconstitutional.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Seeking Road Watchers

The Michigan Department of Transportation is looking for some help keeping an eye on the roads this winter. The agency says it’s seeking Road Watchers to report on conditions around west Michigan highways. Volunteers will be polled about highway conditions following winter storms, and their input will be used to deploy winter maintenance crews and identify best practices. Specifically, MDOT needs those road watchers in Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, and Ottawa counties to report on M, US, and I routes. Anyone who’s interested in signing up can go to Michigan.gov/RoadWatchers. Those who volunteer will be randomly polled throughout the winter.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Moving Up

Gas prices in the state stand at an average of $2.27 a gallon according to GasBuddy, with Triple-A Michigan noting it’s the lowest they’ve been for nearly a year and a half. However, those prices are on the rise this afternoon. Triple-A spokeswoman Nancy Cain says changes are on the horizon globally.. ...Read Full Story

Changes Possible To Michigan’s Fireworks Laws

There have been plenty of complaints from Michigan residents over the past seven years since the state expanded what fireworks are allowed, and state lawmakers have heard them. Representative Jim Lilly of Park Township, just outside Holland, has legislation he hopes to have approved during the last few weeks of the year to give local governments more authority and control over what is allowed and when they can be fired off.. ...Read Full Story

City Manager Signs New Contract

Benton Harbor City Manager Darwin Watson has a new contract in place. At this week’s Benton Harbor City Commission meeting, Mayor Marcus Muhammad said Watson signed the new employment agreement on November 28. That’s after city commissioners approved it in October, and then terminated Darwin’s old contract at a meeting last month. When asked if there are significant differences between the old contract and the new, Watson told us there are not.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Shop With A Cop Held

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department has wrapped up another Shop with a Cop event, taking ten kids from Marcellus Elementary School on a free shopping trip to Meijer for the holidays. The eighth trip also featured gifts of food baskets for the families of the children who took part. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department says it takes the efforts of volunteers, along with the Three Rivers Meijer and the Edward Lowe Foundation, to make the annual shopping trip possible. It has issued a thank you to all who contributed.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Asked To Support Ox Creek Clean-Up

Berrien County Drain Commissioner Christopher Quattrin is asking Benton Harbor City Commissioners to lend their support to a clean-up project for the Ox Creek drain system. At Monday’s commission meeting, the body was told easements would need to be granted for the drain commissioner to remove dead trees, industrial debris, and litter throughout the creek. About 10% of the adjoining land is owned by the city. Quattrin told WSJM News it will require jurisdiction to make the clean-up happen.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Woman Wins Big In Lotto

A Cass County woman has won $300,000 in a Michigan Lottery game. The Lotto tells us the player, who has chosen to remain anonymous, struck gold with a 25th Anniversary Wild Time instant game ticket. The 53-year-old woman bought the ticket at the Edwardsburg Marathon on US-12. She says she was with her nephews when she got it, and scratched it off at home. She at first just tossed the ticket down on to the table after scratching it off, and it was her nephew who noticed it was a big winner. The woman plans to use her winnings to set up college funds for her grandkids.. ...Read Full Story

State Warns About Tax Scam

There’s a new scam that targets those who may owe overdue taxes, and the Michigan Department of Treasury is putting out a warning. Spokesperson Ron Leix tells WSJM News the scammer will send a letter through the U.S. Postal Service, telling someone they owe money.. ...Read Full Story

Sick Leave Advocates Gearing Up For New Ballot Proposal

From the Associated Press — Advocates of paid sick leave are planning to launch a 2020 ballot drive if a new law is gutted by Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature. MI Time to Care filed petition language Monday, days after the Senate voted to significantly scale back paid sick time requirements due to take effect in March. The GOP-led House will hold a hearing Tuesday. Majority Republicans approved sick leave and minimum wage ballot initiatives before the election to make it easier to change them. Critics say the move would be unconstitutional. It is unclear if Republican Governor Rick Snyder will OK the bills. But if he does and legal challenges are unsuccessful, sick leave advocates know that if they gather enough signatures for 2020, Democratic Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer will not join GOP legislators in gutting it.. ...Read Full Story

State Surplus Store To Open

From the Associated Press — The state’s Surplus Store in Lansing is opening for one day for walk-ins interested in computers, phones, cameras, jewelry and other items. Those items and other property like sporting goods, musical equipment and tools will be available from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Some items were seized by police, voluntarily surrendered at airports, or were surplus from public colleges and government agencies. Michigan’s Technology, Management & Budget department collects and makes the items available for purchase through the surplus store that normally operates only online.. ...Read Full Story

Human Trafficking Victims Recovered In SWMI

Five human trafficking victims have been identified and rescued by Michigan State Police and the Kalamazoo Area Human Trafficking Task Force. MSP says 20 people were targeted as potential victims during the weekend initiative in southwest Michigan. The investigation is ongoing to find and recover other potential victims. Police have not said where the five who were saved had been located, or if any arrests have yet been made.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Gas Prices Fall Under $2 Per Gallon

South Haven’s gas prices have fallen under the $2 per gallon mark according to GasBuddy. Triple A Michigan’s weekly survey of gas stations around the state finds the average has tumbled another 12¢ a gallon to $2.28, with the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph area having the second-lowest average at $2.15 behind the $2.13 average for the Grand Rapids-Holland-Muskegon and Jackson markets. South Haven is not included in the auto club’s research. GasBuddy says the lowest price in the state as of Monday morning was $1.75 at three stations in Mason, just south of Lansing. The Triple A average is the lowest it’s been statewide since July 2017 and the average driver is now spending $13 less on each full-tank fill-up than when prices peaked for the year in May.. ...Read Full Story

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans Available For Van Buren, Allegan Counties

Small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, aquaculture businesses and some private nonprofits in several west Michigan counties are now eligible for low-interest economic injury disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The affected area includes Van Buren and Allegan counties, and comes as the result of a USDA disaster declaration for heavy rains that soaked the area from May 9 through June 4 of this year. The loan can be up to $2 million with interest rates of 2.5% for private nonprofit organizations and 3.61% for small businesses with terms up to 30 years. The SBA will determine eligibility based on the size of the applicant, type of activity, and its financial resources. Applications are available online at disasterloan.sba.gov.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Looks To Extend Medicaid Protections For Seniors

Legislation backed by Congressman Fred Upton is designed to protect senior citizens from being impoverished due to medical problems. He tells WSJM News the Protecting Married Seniors from Impoverishment Act would extend spousal protections for Medicaid beneficiaries receiving long-term care. Upton says pre-existing protections are currently set to expire.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Receives Committee Assignment

State Senator-elect Kim LaSata has been named to the Senate Committee on Committees for the 2019-2020 legislative term. LaSata is one of three freshman senators to be picked for the five-person panel, and this is her first committee assignment since being elected to the Michigan Senator for the 21st District this November. LaSata also served on the House Committee on Committees in her first year as a state representative during the 2017-2018 legislative term. The Committee on Committees is a temporary body that hands out committee assignments to lawmakers for the coming year. LaSata tells us she’s “humbled to have been chosen to serve in this important position,” and she thanked Majority Leader-elect Mike Shirkey for choosing her.. ...Read Full Story

Plainwell Man Killed In Weekend Crash In Bloomingdale Twp

A crash late Saturday night or early Sunday morning in Bloomingdale Township has claimed the life of a 30-year-old Plainwell man. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department was called just before 8:30 Sunday morning to the 12-thousand block of County Road 665 where they found the wreckage and the man still inside the car. Deputies say it appears he was wearing his seat belt, but went off the road and hit several trees while rolling the car. The vehicle was badly damaged, and investigators found a large debris field from the crash. The man’s name has not been released.. ...Read Full Story

Teens Hurt In St. Joseph Crash

Two 16-year-olds from Berrien County are recovering after being hurt in a crash in the city of St. Joseph Saturday night. The driver hit a tree on Botham Avenue east of Thayer near First Church of God, with both needing to be freed by the Jaws of Life used by St. Joseph Public Safety and the Lincoln Township Fire Department. The two were taken a few blocks away to Spectrum Health Lakeland to be treated for their injuries, and are expected to recover. Drugs and alcohol are not believed to have been factors in the crash, but authorities don’t know yet what caused the 16-year-old to lose control.. ...Read Full Story

Strategy Offered For Fixing Invasive Species Damage

From the Associated Press — A coalition of agencies and groups in the Great Lakes region has released a plan for developing solutions to problems caused by invasive mussels. The strategy is intended to guide investments, policies and research into zebra and quagga mussels. The mussels arrived in the lakes in the 1980s and have spread across much of the nation. They’ve done billions of dollars’ worth of damage by disrupting aquatic food webs, degrading fish habitat and clogging water intake pipes. Great Lakes Commission John Linc Stine says more effective tools are needed to eradicate the mussels. The strategy sets goals to guide development of methods to restore damaged
ecosystems. Members of the Invasive Mussel Collaborative include federal, state, provincial and tribal agencies as well as private stakeholder groups and research institutions.. ...Read Full Story

Officials Issue Snow Removal Reminder

With the winter now here, the Berrien County Road Department is reminding everyone of rules they have to follow when it comes to shoveling. The department tells us every year it gets calls about people and snow removal businesses pushing snow across roadways. It is illegal to do so. The department says you may not remove or deposit snow across public roads or put snow in a place where it could block a driver’s line of sight. Snow deposited on road shoulders can freeze and damage plows. Everyone is reminded to be mindful of the state law.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Springs Christmas Celebration This Week

The village of Berrien Springs will kick-off the Christmas season this coming week with Kindle Your Christmas Spirit in Downtown Berrien Springs. On Thursday, the downtown streets will be closed from 6 to 9 p.m. to allow for browsing, live music, ice carving, horse-drawn carriages, and tram rides to and from the public library. There will also be a live nativity, the Christmas tree lighting ceremony with a hand bell choir, face painting, crafts, and more. Santa and Mrs. Claus will oversee everything from the village hall. Everyone is welcome to come and take part in the festivities.. ...Read Full Story

Asian Carp Plan Released

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released its final plan to stop the Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes. It centers around the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois, and involves a specially-designed vessel channel, noisemakers, and a water-flushing lock to keep the invasive fish out of Lake Michigan. The total cost of the plan — $778 million, much more than the $275 million the Corps estimated in a draft from last year. After a public comment period, the Corps is expected to send the plan to Congress in February as it seeks the funding. You can see the Army Corps plan right here.. ...Read Full Story

Senate Approves Tax Break For Small Distillers

The Michigan Senate this week approved legislation from state Senator John Proos to give a tax break to micro-distillers. Senate Bill 579 would reduce the state’s overall liquor markup by 2% over a period of four years, eventually reaching 63%, but only if in the previous year the total state sales of spirits increased by at least 2%. Proos tells us the markup would be reduced to 32.5%, half of the current rate, for those distillers who use at least 40% Michigan-distilled grain.. ...Read Full Story