Local News Archives

State Supreme Court Rules Whitmer Has No Authority To Continue Emergency

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled on Friday Governor Gretchen Whitmer does not have the authority to continue the COVID-19 state of emergency. The court ruled four to three the governor could not continue the initial emergency, which had been set to expire on April 30. It found a 1945 law the governor had been using to issue emergency declarations constitutes an unconstitutional delegation of lawmaking authority from the legislative branch to the executive branch of state government. The governor’s office says her “orders remain in effect for at least 21 days; thereafter, many public health and other rules will continue under alternative authorities.”. ...Read Full Story

Upton Calls On House Leadership To Draft Bipartisan COVID Package

Congressman Fred Upton is calling on House leadership to work on a COVID-19 relief package that can be approved by both the House and the Senate. That’s after he says House Democrats on Thursday approved a plan with no chance of getting final passage. Speaking to WSJM News earlier this week, Upton said it’s the job of Congress to come up with an aid package before heading home for the elections.. ...Read Full Story

Group Submits Signatures To Undo Whitmer Emergency Powers

From the Associated Press — A Michigan group has submitted more than 539,000 signatures to repeal a law that has given Governor Gretchen Whitmer broad emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic. Unlock Michigan is demanding that the veto-proof initiative be put before the Republican-led Legislature before year’s end. It needs roughly 340,000 valid voter signatures for the bill to qualify and has a 200,000 cushion. State Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, is investigating whether the ballot drive used illegal tactics. The Democratic governor has opposed the initiative, saying a 1945 law allowing her to unilaterally extend a state of emergency has helped her save lives.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Whitmer, Secretary of State Benson React To Trump’s COVID-19

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson are among those reacting to the positive tests for COVID-19 for President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump. Both wished them a speedy recovery, with Whitmer calling it the “most dangerous public health crisis America has faced in 100 years.” Benson called it a reminder that “this pandemic is real, ongoing and indiscriminate.” Governor Whitmer added the announcement should serve as a wakeup call to every American and said “let’s all mask up and let’s get through this together, as one nation.”. ...Read Full Story

Peters Raises $14M Over 3 Months In Michigan Senate Race

From the Associated Press — Money is abundant in Michigan’s competitive U.S. Senate race, in which a campaign-finance expert projects spending will top a staggering $100 million by Election Day. First-term Democratic Senator Gary Peters said Thursday his campaign raised more than $14 million in the previous three months, again setting a state record for a Democratic Senate candidate and eclipsing his $5.2 million haul in the second quarter. Polling has shown Peters to be slightly ahead against Republican challenger John James. The Senate Leadership Fund, a GOP super PAC run by allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, announced
a two-week $9 million ad buy to target Peters and help GOP challenger John James.. ...Read Full Story

Bill Would Prohibit Discrimination Due To Hairstyle

It’s a call to end racial discrimination of certain hairstyles in the workplace. Asia Tennille is an account executive at the Michigan ad agency Campbell Ewald, which is getting behind a bill that’s in the state Legislature to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. She spoke with Michigan News Network about the need for the legislation, telling them the bill is about hairstyles like Bantu knots. State Representative Sarah Anthony introduced House Bill 48-11 in July 2019. Tennille and Campbell Ewald say they’re supporting the legislation to prevent students and athletes from being suspended and employees from being fired.. ...Read Full Story

Archery Deer Season Underway

As Michigan’s archery deer hunting season began Thursday, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources wants hunters to keep certain rules in mind. Chad Stewart is a deer biologist with the DNR who spoke with Michigan News Network about the hunting rules.. ...Read Full Story

County Accepts Grant To Cover COVID Costs

A grant of $377,000 is being accepted by Berrien County to help recoup COVID-19 related costs. Community Development Director Dan Fette told the Berrien County Board of Commissioners Thursday the funds come from the federal CARES act in the form of Community Development Block Grants. The money is needed.. ...Read Full Story

Deal Reached To Speed Up Court Hearings For Juvenile Lifers

From the Associated Press — The state of Michigan has settled a decadelong lawsuit over so-called juvenile lifers. The deal accelerates rehabilitation programs that could enhance their release from prison. It also puts deadlines on local prosecutors to schedule resentencing hearings and requires prosecutors to keep the attorney general informed. The case involves prisoners who were convicted of murder and automatically sentenced to life without parole for killings when they were under 18. Those no-parole punishments are no longer mandatory, and judges have much discretion to impose shorter sentences. Nearly 170 prisoners, known as
juvenile lifers, are still waiting for new hearings.. ...Read Full Story

Energy Secretary Visits Michigan

United States Secretary of Energy Dan Brouilette is in Michigan this week to learn about some of the state’s energy needs and the work Michigan does in that sector. One stop will take Secretary Brouilette to a Ford facility. He spoke with Michigan News Network about it.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Could Lift Ban On Food Assistance For Drug Felons

From the Associated Press — The lifetime ban from receiving food benefits for those with more than one drug-related felony conviction could be lifted under a bill that passed the Michigan Senate on Wednesday. The current law punishes offenders long after they’ve served their sentences and increases the chance they will commit more crimes, supporters of the legislation say. Federal law allows states to permanently ban residents with drug-related felonies from receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. The bill now goes to the House. If signed into law Michigan would join 26 other states in lifting the ban, according to bill supporter Michigan League for Public Policy.. ...Read Full Story

Voters Request 2.5 Million Absentee Ballots

The Michigan Secretary of State’s office says Michigan voters have requested 2.5 million absentee ballots for the November election. Through October 19, residents with a Michigan driver’s license or state identification card can register online at Michigan.gov/Vote. The Secretary of State says the number of absentee ballot requests this year is up by 350% from 2016. More than 35,000 absentee ballot requests came in from Berrien County, and in Van Buren County, there were more than 15,000 requests for absentee ballots. Michigan voters can find their clerk’s information and request to have an absentee ballot sent to them at Michigan.gov/Vote.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Today Not Holding Trick Or Treating Event, Collecting Donations Instead

St. Joseph Today will not be holding its usual Trick or Treating event in downtown St. Joe and the Benton Harbor Arts District this Halloween. Director Amy Zapal says the organization had to keep the health and safety of visitors and residents as the top priority during the pandemic. However, she says instead of Trick or Treating, St. Joe Today will collect Halloween donations for the Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harbor and other local non-profits. Thanks to the generosity of local businesses, Zapal says St. Joseph Today is coordinating the donation effort. As of now, the city of St. Joseph still has Trick or Treating scheduled for October 31 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. That could, however, still change.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Recognizes Staff, Announces Commemorative Coins

Southwestern Michigan College is giving commemorative COVID coins to its staff as a thank you for helping during the pandemic. SMC held its annual employee recognition program on September 25 via Zoom with 95 people logged in to hear from President Joe Odenwald. He announced with SMC staff now veterans of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising to the occasion, the commemorative coins would be pocket-size medallions given to service members as a gesture of camaraderie. Each coin is individually numbered, and Odenwald said they will forever connect “the work, sacrifices and ingenuity that have gone into keeping this college operational during this major event in the history of the country.” Also during the meeting, years of service were recognized in five-year increments for staff members.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Signs State Budget

From the Associated Press — Gretchen Whitmer has signed a $62.7 billion state budget hours before the new fiscal year. It will fund a new tuition-assistance program for adults and avoid major government cuts despite the economic downturn during the coronavirus pandemic. The plan, which has bipartisan legislative support, also includes a slight boost in aid for schools and a full or partial
restoration of tourism and job-training funds that were vetoed amid an impasse a year ago and again when COVID-19 struck. The process was delayed this year due to uncertainty over the pandemic’s effect on tax revenues.. ...Read Full Story

Brandywine High School Gets Tennis Courts

Brandywine Community Schools has something to celebrate this week. The district held a ribbon cutting on its brand new tennis courts. The days of Brandywine High School tennis team members driving across town, with racquets in tow, to a public park for practice are a thing of the past as the teams can now hone their serves and backhands, as well as host home tennis matches, on courts located right on their high school campus. The Brandywine Community Schools prioritized the 8-court, outdoor tennis facility to be ready for the Fall 2020 season, and it’s now ready. The ceremony to dedicate the courts was on Tuesday afternoon.. ...Read Full Story

Geologists Express Concern About Line 5 Tunnel Plan

Some experts are warning the proposed Line 5 tunnel project in the Straits of Mackinac is not ready for prime time. The state is holding hearings on Enbridge’s permit applications for the project. Geological engineer Brian O’Mara joined other scientists who reviewed the plan to share their concerns during a press conference Monday. The project involves tunneling beneath open water, where O’Mara tells us there are geological conditions like poor rock quality and solution cavities.. ...Read Full Story

Healthy Michigan Plan Tops 800,000 Enrollees

The Healthy Michigan Plan has topped 800,000 enrollees for the first time. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Bob Wheaton tells WSJM News Healthy Michigan is the state’s expanded Medicaid program, made possible by the Affordable Care Act. It allows someone at 133% of the federal poverty level to qualify. The number of people covered by the program has risen quite a bit this year.. ...Read Full Story

Hosier Named Next South Haven City Manager

South Haven’s next city manager will be Kate Hosier. She’s been serving as interim city manager since the departure of Brian Dissette this past summer, and the South Haven City Council voted to hire her on a long-term basis Monday night. The vote was unanimous. During the meeting, Hosier gave a presentation outlining the goals she would work toward if selected as the city manager. The top three priorities were housing, economic development, and inclusivity. Following the vote to hire Hosier, the council instructed the mayor and human resources director to begin working on a contract. Hosier told us Tuesday she’s “very happy and excited to continue serving” the city of South Haven.. ...Read Full Story

University Of Michigan Cancels Study Abroad Programs

From the Associated Press — The University of Michigan has canceled undergraduate study abroad programs for the school’s upcoming winter term due to concerns over the COVID-19 virus, continuing travel restrictions and planning time needed for students. Associate Vice Provost and Director of Global Engagement Amy Conger says Monday that nearly every country is under a University of Michigan travel restriction. Conger adds that it’s difficult to do an accurate risk assessment of COVID-19 conditions, predict entry and exit bans, and confirm the availability of quarantine housing and other safety measures at all of the study sites. Conger said it can take nine months to a year to plan a program.. ...Read Full Story

Agency Proposes Protections For 2 Eastern US Mussel Species

From the Associated Press — Federal regulators are proposing to list as threatened two freshwater mussel species native to many eastern U.S. rivers and streams. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday that the longsolid and round hickorynut mussels have disappeared from some states and are doing poorly elsewhere. They’re are among roughly 300 species of freshwater mussels across
the nation, two-thirds of which are in peril. The two species are suffering from shrinking and degraded habitat, and invasive newcomers. Freshwater mussels are important for healthy rivers and streams because they filter out pollutants and sediments as they feed.
. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Says Racial Disparities Of Virus Have Diminished

From the Associated Press — Michigan is reporting that Black residents are no longer being disproportionately infected and killed by the coronavirus, after they accounted for a staggering 40% of deaths and 29% of cases in the early days of the pandemic. For the last two available weeks of data, African Americans represented 10% of COVID-19 deaths and 8% of cases. They comprise 14% of  Michigan’s population. They still account for at least 38% of confirmed and probable deaths overall, and at least 20% of cases. Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II credits people of color for being more likely to wear masks and follow safety guidelines.. ...Read Full Story

AEP Switching To Electric Vehicles

American Electric Power has a goal of having 100% of its 2,300 cars and light duty trucks replaced with electric vehicles within the next decade. AEP’s total fleet is composed of nearly 8,000 vehicles, including medium- and heavy- duty vehicles. The utility is estimating saving $40 million in fuel costs and avoid the usage of over 10 million gallons of gasoline and diesel. Transitioning light-duty vehicles to EVs has been part of AEP’s fleet strategy and will now become the standard across its subsidiaries. The fleet currently consists of 85 EVs, and employees are able to utilize more than 230 charging ports installed at locations throughout its 11-state service territory.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan COVID-19 Numbers Up 1,308

Michigan has reported 1,308 new COVID-19 cases with 5,000 more recoveries over the weekend. The state Department of Health and Human Services reports since March, we are now at 122,735 cases. There were also 8 deaths reported today, bringing the statewide total to 6,731. Governor Whitmer said there are still areas of the state that are seeing higher numbers.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Holding MI COVID Hero School Essay Contest

School kids in southwest Michigan are invited to take part in an essay competition through state Senator Kim LaSata. Her “MI COVID-19 Hero” essay contest is for all K-12 students in the district. One winner will be chosen from among grades K-5 and 6-12 entries, respectively. Winners will be announced Monday, November 9. The essays should be to honor the sacrifices and heroism of southwest Michigan’s healthcare and service workers during the coronavirus battle. LaSata is only accepting emailed submissions to SenKLaSata@senate.michigan.gov. All submissions need the name, grade and hometown of the participant along with their parent’s or guardian’s name and phone number.. ...Read Full Story

Unlock Michigan Under Investigation

The group Unlock Michigan is under investigation by Attorney General Dana Nessel. They are accused of illegally collecting some of their petition signatures for their effort to repeal the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act. The AG’s office has had complaints Unlock Michigan circulators told them they were gathering signatures to support LGBTQ rights, for medical marijuana initiatives or to help small businesses, among other things. At least one official was caught on a recording training circulators to use deceptive and potentially illegal tactics to gain signatures for the ballot initiative. Any potential charges that may be filed against Unlock Michigan and its members will depend on whether criminal activity took place and the evidence compiled by the Attorney General’s office in its investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Lakeshore’s Stewart Elementary Closed Due To COVID-19

Lakeshore’s Stewart Elementary is closed until Wednesday due to a teacher testing positive for COVID-19. The district says it learned of the test result late Friday and anyone the teacher has been in close contact with is asked to quarantine. That count is over 30 people. District officials say they’re working with the Berrien County Health Department on the next steps, and they are not suggesting remote learning at this time. They plan an update for families at the school tomorrow. Elementary students that live in the Stewart attendance area and attend other elementary schools may still ride the bus from their regular bus stop as routes will be run while Stewart is closed.. ...Read Full Story

University Park Mall Shooting Suspect In Custody

More than two weeks after a deadly shooting at University Park Mall in Mishawaka, the suspect is now behind bars. 21-year-old Dazhon Howard turned himself in over the weekend. He is scheduled to be arraigned at 1 p.m. today. Howard faces charges of murder with a felony firearm for the death of Delaney Crosby. Crosby was shot outside a jewelry store on September 12.. ...Read Full Story

Flu Shot Clinics Planned Around Berrien County

Get your flu shot. That’s the advice of the Berrien County Health Department as it prepares to offer free clinics at its offices in Benton Harbor and Niles every Friday beginning on October 2. Spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News the flu shot is recommended every year for anyone over six months of age.. ...Read Full Story

County Seeking To Increase Broadband Access

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners next week will consider hiring a non-profit to do a broadband availability survey. That’s after the body on Thursday heard from Southwest Michigan Planning Commission Director John Egelhaaf, who gave an update on local efforts to expand broadband. Egelhaaf said current FCC maps regarding broadband availability in the area are inaccurate. That’s why he said the first step toward securing funding for broadband rollout is to get accurate coverage maps. Commissioner Ezra Scott recommended hiring the Merit Network to conduct a survey.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Preparing To Rake A Difference

The United Way of Southwest Michigan is inviting everyone to sign up to Rake A Difference this fall. The United Way’s Debbie Ramirez tells WSJM News the annual Rake A Difference day is now scheduled for November 12. That’s when hundreds of volunteers head to the homes of senior citizens to rake leaves and clean out gutters. Ramirez says in a normal year, the program attracts a large number of volunteers.. ...Read Full Story

Community Colleges Could Offer Four-Year Nursing Degrees Under Nesbitt Bill

State Senator Aric Nesbitt has introduced legislation that would allow community colleges in Michigan to offer four-year programs for bachelor’s degrees in nursing. The plan was approved this week by the state Senate Committee on Regulatory Reform. Nesbitt tells WSJM News as the Baby Boomers age, the state is going to see an increase in the demand for nursing and other health care services.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Beats Enrollment Expectations

Enrollment at Southwestern Michigan College is a bit higher this year than had been expected. SMC President Joe Odenwald told the SMC Board of Trustees this week fall enrollment finished at 1,800 students, 88 higher better than budgeted. Odenwald had expected enrollment to be down due to COVID-19. He told the board he had predicted winding up between 1,650 and 1,700 by the time classes started September 8. The college this week also received some good news that aid from the state could be restored to the previous fiscal year level after a recent cut of $830,000. That will allow for a surplus to apply to the budget stabilization fund. Odenwald noted that unlike the situation many universities are facing, SMC has seen just four positive coronavirus cases since August 31. They were in three students and one staff member. He said he’d like to tell the Higher Learning Commission this coming April “we’ve increased our reserves because we’ve recognized how fragile the overall economy is right now, we’ve cut spending, and we’ve not laid anyone off.” He said he’s optimistic SMC can achieve that goal.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Planning Career Fair

A virtual career fair will be held by the Michigan Department of Transportation next month. MDOT Recruitment Unit Manager James Fults tells WSJM News they’re looking to hire more than 100 winter plow drivers, as well as engineers, planners, and maintenance workers.. ...Read Full Story

Funds Will Help Restaurant, Hospitality Workers

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association has received a $2.5 million grant from the Michigan Department of Treasury to support restaurant and lodging industry workers who were financially hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. The association’s Amanda Smith tells WSJM News this has been a very rough year for those who work at restaurants, and more bad times could be coming.. ...Read Full Story