Local News Archives

Graves Of Veterans Vandalized In Bangor

50 graves markers honoring veterans have been damaged by vandals at a cemetery in Bangor. Police Chief Tommy Simpson tells WSJM News the graves of veterans at Arlington Hill Cemetery are given special markers with American flags on them. Someone broke the markers and took the flags. It was discovered Wednesday morning.. ...Read Full Story

State Education Board Issues Guidance On LGBT Students

Michigan’s education board has approved guidance to schools on creating an inclusive environment for LGBT students. The guidelines are voluntary but have spurred criticism from conservative lawmakers, particularly over restroom and bathroom policies for transgender students.
The Democratic-controlled State Board of Education passed the guidance 6-2 Wednesday, after receiving passionate public testimony from people in support and against. Recommendations to schools include making good faith efforts to address students by their chosen name and pronoun when asked. The guidance also urges schools to let transgender students use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. Education officials say the draft guidance was amended to encourage local school districts to engage their communities in the development of their own policies and to urge greater consideration for parental involvement. Critics say the revisions are meaningless.. ...Read Full Story

MI House Approves New Medical Marijuana Rules

The Michigan House gave final approval to bills Wednesday that would further regulate medical marijuana nearly eight years after its use
was first authorized by voters. The main legislation, which passed 83-22, would impose a new tax and establish a state licensing system to grow, process, sell, transport or test marijuana. Non-smokable forms of the drug such as food and lotions would become legal under a bill that was approved 93-12, surpassing the constitutionally required three-fourths needed to amend a voter initiative. Another measure, OK’d 85-20,
would create a monitoring system to track marijuana from “seed to sale” and flag excess purchases.. ...Read Full Story

SUV Crashes Into St. Joseph Dunkin’ Donuts

One person is nursing a minor injury after an SUV crashed into the St. Joseph Dunkin’ Donuts on Wednesday. It happened around 11:30 a.m. when the Chevy Traverse drove right over the concrete parking barriers, going through the window. There was a lot of broken glass, but damage to the inside of the store was small, and no one suffered any serious injuries. We’re told one person who was sitting close to the window at the time had a cut to his leg. The St. Joseph Department of Public Safety had the crashed vehicle removed from the scene by 12:30, and now the owners of the store are working to repair it.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan: Court Goofed And Should Reopen Sex Offender Case

(Lansing, MI – AP) – The Michigan attorney general’s office is asking a federal appeals court to reopen a dispute over Michigan’s sex-offender registry. The court recently said Michigan is illegally treating many sex offenders as “moral lepers” by putting additional restrictions on them long after their convictions. But in a new filing, the state says the court overlooked a key decision from 2007 that should have led to a different result.. ...Read Full Story

State Sued Over Poor Reading Skills Of Detroit Students

The state of Michigan is being sued over the poor reading skills of Detroit students at five schools, including two charter schools. The lawsuit says the schools are in “slum-like conditions” and “functionally incapable of delivering access to literacy.” The case, filed Tuesday in federal court, accuses Governor Rick Snyder, the state school board and others of violating the civil rights of low-income students. The governor’s office declined to comment. The lawsuit says the state of Michigan is responsible for complying with constitutional mandates in education. The lawsuit seeks literacy instruction at all grades, screening for literacy problems and regular oversight. In 2012, a similar lawsuit was filed in Wayne County court on behalf of Highland Park students. It was ultimately dismissed in favor of the state.. ...Read Full Story

Rock Band Teaches Financial Literacy To MI High School Kids

A Michigan rock band is mixing music and a message about financial literacy for kids. The band Gooding is performing a few shows in the state this week as part of a 60 date nationwide tour at high schools. The idea is to get a message to kids about saving money and avoiding payday or “same-day” loans to get by. Frontman Gooding says the earlier kids learn how to handle money, the less likely they are to make life-altering mistakes.. ...Read Full Story

Pscholka Remembers Lawmaker Who Died Monday

The Michigan Legislature is mourning the second member of the state House to die this year. Republican Representative Peter Pettalia died Monday night in a motorcycle crash in northern Michigan. Representative Al Pscholka tells our newsroom he just recently spent time with Pettalia on Mackinac Island.. ...Read Full Story

Rock Alliance 3 Day Ride This Week

This Thursday is the departure day for this year’s Rock Alliance 3 Day Ride. Motorcyclists from all over will leave from the St. Joseph Holiday Inn Express for a ride throughout the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Tom Woltman, with the Berrien Riders tells WSJM News it’s always a great experience.. ...Read Full Story

Lobbyist Backs Away From Claims About Pscholka, Kahn

A story that a former lobbyist paid the bar tab for state Representative Al Pscholka and was pressured to buy alcohol for the wedding of former state Senator Dr. Roger Kahn’s daughter turns out to be just that – a story. Steve Marino is running for the state House in Macomb County and admitted to the “Detroit Free Press” he made up the story after a recording of him bragging about it was released by Michigan Democrats. Pscholka says he’s never met the guy, and it’s become par for the course in politics.. ...Read Full Story

Minor-In-Possession Changes Considered

State Senator Rick Jones has proposed a couple of bills that might just get him invited to some fraternity parties. A bill due up for a vote today in a House committee would turn the first arrest for being a minor in possession of alcohol from a criminal violation to a civil infraction. Jones says it’s just not right that some young lives are ruined because they have a beer. Jones, a Republican from Grand Ledge and former Eaton County sheriff, has also just proposed new legislation that would allow stores in Ann Arbor to ignore a new city ordinance that changes the legal age for purchasing cigarettes from 18 to 21. Jones thinks it will hurt mom and pop stores in the city, driving business to the burbs.. ...Read Full Story

Harbaugh Denies Eating Booger During Michigan Game

Video seems to show Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh picking and eating a booger during the Wolverines’ game against Central Florida on Saturday. The Internet has lit up with comments about it, but Harbaugh says it’s not what it appears. On his weekly radio show Monday night, which is heard on 95.7 and 1400 WSJM Sports, the coach denied eating a booger.. ...Read Full Story

Legislature Poised To Approve Medical Marijuana Regulations

Michigan lawmakers are poised to give final approval to a new regulatory structure for medical marijuana. Voters legalized the drug for medical use in 2008. But there have been conflicts in the courts, particularly over the legality of dispensaries where patients can buy the drug and whether non-smokable forms are legal. Legislation up for a vote Tuesday in the Republican-controlled House would create a tiered regulatory system. A state license would be required to grow, process, sell, transport and test marijuana. Dispensaries would pay a 3% tax on their gross retail income. Allowable marijuana could include infused, non-smokable forms such as lotions and edible products. More than 211,000 qualifying patients now grow their own marijuana plants or obtain the drug from nearly 37,000 registered caregivers under the 2008 law.. ...Read Full Story

Northern Michigan State Rep Killed In Crash

A three-term state lawmaker has died in a motorcycle accident in northern Michigan. Republican state Representative. Peter Pettalia was killed Monday evening in an accident on M-33 South. No further details were immediately available. A Montmorency County sheriff’s dispatcher and Michigan State Police told The Associated Press a statement would be issued later. Pettalia was elected to his first term in 2010. Governor Snyder issued a statement offering condolences to Pettalia’s family and saying flags will be lowered in his honor. GOP House Speaker Kevin Cotter called Pettalia a dear friend and longtime colleague well known for his expertise, hard work and love for the outdoors. Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon also issued a statement, saying his party’s “deepest sympathy and heartfelt condolences go out to the family, friends, and colleagues of Representative Peter Pettalia.” Pettalia was 61 and had lived in Presque Isle since 1977.. ...Read Full Story

Report Recommends Eliminating Court Fees For Juveniles

A new report from the Juvenile Law Center shows many juvenile offenders who wind up in the court system are being hurt by the fines and fees given to them. The center’s Jessica Feierman says that includes the cost of tests and evaluations, rehabilitation, and court operation. She says court costs can put families in stressful situations where they face difficult choices.. ...Read Full Story

WMU Southwest Location Reaching Out To ITT Tech Students

Another southwest Michigan college has stepped forward to offer help to displaced students of ITT Technical Institute. Western Michigan University’s Southwest location in Benton Harbor is offering to enroll ITT Tech students for the fall while having application and late-registration fees waived. It’s also set up a team of admissions and financial personnel to help ITT students transfer, as well as a website. WMU is urging any ITT Tech students looking for a place to go to give them a call. Last week, Southwestern Michigan College extended a similar offer.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Students Working To Verify World Record Attempt

It will take about 12 weeks for organizers of the record attempt at Southwestern Michigan College over the weekend to find out if they succeeded, but they’re pretty sure they did. On Saturday, more than 100 students worked to build the biggest blanket fort ever. SMC’s Branden Pompey tells WSJM News they have to send proof to Guinness World Records.. ...Read Full Story

Appeals Court Upholds Emergency Manager Law

An appeals court has ruled in favor of Governor Rick Snyder in a challenge to Michigan’s emergency manager law, which was passed by Republicans. The appeals court on Monday upheld a decision by a federal judge, who swept aside much of the lawsuit in 2014. Emergency managers have exceptional power to run local governments and school districts, while elected officials typically are pushed aside for 18 months or more. Critics sued, arguing that the law violated many of their constitutional rights. The appeals court says the law might not be the “perfect remedy” but it’s “rationally related” to fixing distressed local governments. Michigan voters overturned Snyder’s first emergency manager law in 2012. But he and lawmakers quickly returned with another.. ...Read Full Story

Upton: Congress Is Seeking Answers On EpiPen Costs

Congressman Fred Upton says the House is working to find help for those who use EpiPens after the company that makes them jacked up the price. The life-saving devices are used to treat severe allergic reactions, and they’ve gone up in price from about $100 in 2007 to $600 today. Upton says the House is seeking answers from the FDA.. ...Read Full Story

Crash Badly Injures Three Teens

Three teenagers are hospitalized with serious injuries following a crash in Cass County. It happened just before 9 p.m. Sunday in Porter Township when 17-year-old Nicholas Meuzelaar of Edwardsburg lost control going around a curve and slammed into a tree. He and 16-year-old Jacob Cronin and 17-year-old Tyler Hairell were badly hurt. All three are at Elkhart General Hospital. Meuzelaar had to be airlifted to the hospital, and was trapped in the vehicle when first responders arrived. His passengers were rushed to Elkhart General by ambulance. The crash remains under investigation, and the Cass County Sheriff’s Department says all three were buckled up.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Down For Second Straight Week

Despite a prediction from GasBuddy last week that prices would be jumping anywhere from a dime to a quarter per gallon, gas prices in Michigan are down to start the week once again. Triple-A Michigan puts the average at $2.20, with the lowest average at an even $2 per gallon in Lansing to $2.35 in Marquette. While a good number of stations in our area are under $2 per gallon, the Benton Harbor/St. Joseph average is $2.05, a drop of almost 16¢ from Labor Day. Indiana’s prices were the biggest drop in the country, falling 11¢, followed by Michigan’s plunge of 9.8¢. Despite the drop, our state’s prices are still the 23rd most expensive in the country.. ...Read Full Story

CPR Training Could Become School Requirement In Michigan

(Lansing, MI – AP) – Health advocates are pushing what’s billed as a simple way to have more CPR-trained lifesavers in Michigan: requiring the instruction in school. The legislation easily cleared the Senate in the spring and is pending in the House. Supporters hope the chamber will vote this month before members breaks again to focus on the November election.. ...Read Full Story

State, Foundation Partner On Mental Health, Suicide Campaign

(Lansing, MI – AP) – The state of Michigan and a foundation are working together on a campaign to raise awareness of mental illness and combat suicide. The Opening Minds Ending Stigma campaign began over the weekend with the airing of a 30-minute documentary in the Detroit and Grand Rapids TV markets. The documentary can be seen for free at www.endingstigma.org. Internet and social media campaigns, including public service announcements, also are planned.. ...Read Full Story

Audit Finds MI School Bus Inspections Inadequate

An audit says the Michigan State Police division that inspects school buses is understaffed and has failed to ensure problems are fixed. The Michigan Office of the Auditor General looked at the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division, which keeps tabs on the condition of thousands of buses. The audit found initial inspections were done, but inspectors relied too heavily on the word of school districts that problems were fixed. The audit found that 30 to 40 percent of repairs were certified by state employees between 2013 and 2015. Randy Coplin, assistant commander for the division, tells WOOD-TV staffing and funding have been cut, but the inspection program is “one of the best in the country.” He says a school bus “is the safest form of transportation to and from school.”. ...Read Full Story

Ride To Remember Honors Fallen Berrien County Deputies

Remembering the Americans who lost there lives in the 911 attacks was evident Sunday as hundreds gathered for the 16th Ride to Remember in Southwest Michigan. The annual motorcycle ride is to raise money for the American Red Cross. The event was also in honor of the two Berrien County Deputies who lost their lives on July 11th. Berrien County Sheriff Bailey told the crowd, that as Americans, we stand together.. ...Read Full Story

Lawmakers Seeking To Close Failing Detroit Schools

Republican legislative leaders are asking Michigan’s attorney general to issue an opinion on the state’s authority to close persistently low-performing public schools in Detroit as soon as the end of this academic year. The letter released Friday was written by Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and House Speaker Kevin Cotter. They want Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette to weigh in because Republican Governor Rick Snyder interprets a law  rescuing the Detroit district from debt to mean the State School Reform/Redesign Officer cannot close any district school until 2019. The top lawmakers say the law’s “plain language” authorizes Detroit school closures by the end of this school year and to say otherwise ignores legislative intent. Attorney general opinions are legally binding on state agencies and officers unless reversed by a court.. ...Read Full Story

Courser, Gamrat Suing Over Scandal Investigation

Two Republicans who were forced out of the Michigan Legislature in a sex scandal have filed lawsuits, claiming their rights were violated during the investigation by their House colleagues. Todd Courser of Lapeer County is seeking millions of dollars. Cindy Gamrat of Allegan County is seeking at least $25,000. They filed separate lawsuits this week in federal court in western Michigan. Gamrat is serving as her own lawyer.
Courser quit the House last year while Gamrat was expelled by lawmakers. Courser was accused of soliciting an aide to send a phony email to cover up an affair with Gamrat. Separately, Courser is facing criminal charges related to the scandal. He denies wrongdoing. Charges against Gamrat were dismissed by a judge.. ...Read Full Story

“Ride To Remember” Tomorrow

The terror attacks of September 11, 2001 will be remembered this weekend with a special motorcycle ride through southwest Michigan. Berrien Riders President Todd Kimball tells WSJM News the 16th Ride to Remember leaves from the Berrien County Courthouse at noon Sunday. He says hundreds of riders show up.. ...Read Full Story

Chemical, Tire Recycling Event Coming Up In Van Buren County

Residents of Van Buren County who are looking to get rid of old tires or household chemicals will have a chance to do so this month with some help from the Van Buren Conservation District. It’s holding a recycling event on Saturday, September 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the South Haven Public Works building on 8th Avenue. You can drop off passenger tires there for free, and they’ll take latex paint for $2 per gallon and household chemicals for $1.10 per pound. Also, they’ll take hearing aids, eye glasses, walking canes, American flags which will be donated to the local Lions Club and VFW. You can find out more at VanBurenCD.org/recycling.. ...Read Full Story

Several Lane Closures Planned For SWM Roads Next Week

The Michigan Department of Transportation will be busy in the next several weeks, and it’s advising drivers of several highway lane closures coming up. First, there’s a single lane closure planned for eastbound I-94 at the Pipestone Road exit in Benton Harbor while bridge repairs are made. It will be in effect on Monday. Up next is a single lane closure with flag controls on M-40 between I-94 and County Road 653 near Paw Paw starting Monday and running through September 19 while they do repairs. Also, MDOT plans to close the ramp from westbound I-94 to the I-94 business loop at exit 33 in Benton Harbor starting Monday. It’ll reopen Wednesday after some pavement repairs are finished. Last but not least is a single-lane closure planned for eastbound I-94 from Mile Marker 25 to M-63, or the Niles Avenue exit in St. Joseph Township. They’ll be doing pavement repairs and the closure will be just for one day. You can stay on top of all MDOT projects with its MIDrive app.. ...Read Full Story

Suitcases For Kids Campaign Begins

It’s time once again for the Realtors Association of Southwest Michigan’s Suitcases for Kids drive. Each year, the group collects duffel bags, backpacks, and personal care items to be given to children in the local foster care system. Realtors Association Director Gary Walter tells WSJM News they need all the help they can get.. ...Read Full Story

Coalition Asks Presidential Candidates To Protect Federal Land

The federal government owns an estimated 640 million acres of land, including about 3.6 million acres in Michigan, and a coalition of more than three dozen sportsman, wildlife, and environmental groups is asking presidential candidates to commit to keeping these lands public. Collin O’Mara, with the National Wildlife Federation says people need to keep fighting to maintain access to public lands.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation To Help Development Of Driverless Cars Moving Forward

Legislation to help automakers develop autonomous cars is expected to make its way through the Michigan legislature soon. State Representative Brandt Iden, of Kalamazoo County, says the bills would let companies test autonomous vehicles without a human researcher in the driver’s seat. They would also help with the development of a new test facility, and allow automakers to operate an on-demand vehicle network. Iden is also expecting the package to move quickly through the House.. ...Read Full Story

Ride To Remember This Sunday

This Sunday brings the 16th Ride to Remember in southwest Michigan. It’s a motorcycle ride to raise money for the American Red Cross. Berrien Riders President Todd Kimball tells WSJM News registration starts at the Berrien County Courthouse at 10 a.m. and the ride begins at noon.. ...Read Full Story

Straight Party Voting Will Still Be Allowed In November

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to let Michigan’s new ban on straight-party voting take effect for the November election. The court on Friday rejected a request by state officials to halt lower court rulings that blocked the Republican-sponsored law signed by Governor Rick Snyder. The court’s decision means Michigan voters will still be able to use the popular straight-ticket option, which allows them to support all candidates from one party with a single mark. In issuing a preliminary injunction, a federal district judge ruled the law would create longer lines and disproportionately burden black voters who are more likely to use the straight-ticket option. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request for a stay pending appeal. Forty other states prohibit straight-party voting.. ...Read Full Story

GasBuddy Expecting A Jump At The Pump

The price at the pump is on the way up. Patrick DeHaan with Gas Buddy says supplies are low because they were “likely affected by Hurricane Hermine.” He adds the storm “shut down a lot of the infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico.” A lot of the large crude carriers can hold up to two-million barrels of crude oil, and if there’s a large storm that would affect how quickly the oil can be offloaded and brought into the country, supply will take a hit.. ...Read Full Story

Two Main Streets In South Bend Closed Since May Reopen

(South Bend, IN – AP) – Two primary streets in South Bend closed since May have reopened. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and other city officials on Thursday removed a barricade, reopening Michigan Street, which goes through downtown South Bend. That street and Main Street were closed to install roundabouts and to prepare to convert the streets from one-way to two-way. Full conversion of the two streets will occur in three phases over the next two months. The goal of the $20 million project is to make the city’s downtown friendlier to pedestrians and bicyclists and to slow down vehicles traveling through downtown. The project also included new curbs, sidewalks and trees.. ...Read Full Story