State gas prices at $2.59

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — AAA Michigan says average gas prices statewide are up about 7 cents from a week ago to about $2.59 per gallon.
The Dearborn-based auto club said Monday the average price for self-serve regular unleaded is about 3 cents more than a year ago. AAA says the statewide average rose to a new 2019 high of $2.62 per gallon last Wednesday before easing later in the week. AAA says more increases are expected.
The state’s highest average was about $2.65 a gallon in the Traverse City area. The lowest average was about $2.53 in the Flint area.
Prices in the Detroit area were about $2.59 per gallon, up about 7 cents from a week ago.
AAA Michigan surveys daily fuel prices at 2,800 gas stations across the state.

Presidential contenders O’Rourke, Gillibrand visit Michigan

Associated Press
CENTER LINE, Mich. — Democratic presidential contenders showed Michigan’s importance on Monday, campaigning early in a state that Donald Trump became the first Republican in decades to win.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York stopped in the vote-rich Detroit area for multiple events, a year before the state’s primary. Trump, himself, will campaign in Michigan next week — another sign that the 2020 race is intensifying.
“I wanted to be here in this state as early as I possibly could,” O’Rourke said after touring a carpentry apprenticeship school in Oakland County on Monday — a day he also reported raising more than $6 million online in the first 24 hours of his campaign. It was one of three stops he made.
Earlier at a coffee shop in Macomb County, a man in the crowd of more 200 asked O’Rourke how Democrats can win back white blue-collar workers who helped carry Trump to a narrow victory over Hillary Clinton. O’Rourke responded that Trump has been “very successful at exacerbating the divisions and differences” among Americans with a “divide-and-conquer approach.”
“We can succumb to that and return in kind. Or we can transcend that and be above that,” he said, adding that citizens must confront “the hard truths of slavery and segregation and suppression, the way that wealth was built in this country.”
He said income inequality in the U.S. is “obscene” and called for significant government spending on education and infrastructure.
In Oakland County, Gillibrand participated in town hall that was to air Monday night on MSNBC. She blasted Trump for spreading “fear and hate and degradation across this country” and touted her ability to “bring people together” and pass bipartisan legislation, noting that she won a Republican congressional district before later winning re-election to the Senate by a wide margin. She told reporters that Michigan is a lot like upstate New York.
“I think these are places that very much felt left behind in the last election, that they didn’t hear their stories being talked about enough. And so they didn’t feel like the Democrats were going to help them. I’m going to help every person in this country,” said Gillibrand, who formally joined the crowded Democratic field on Sunday.
Gillibrand also campaigned at an event hosted by Fems for Dems inside a Clawson furniture and women’s clothing store, talking up policy priorities such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. In attendance was Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has encouraged presidential candidates to visit the state and said Gillibrand was “the first to call.”
“We know that all roads to the White House run through Michigan,” said Whitmer, who is not backing a candidate yet.
O’Rourke spoke with a number of students during his tour of the training facility, including Malcolm Kennedy, a 40-year-old Detroit resident who is going into his third year of the program.
Kennedy said he hopes O’Rourke’s visit is a sign that presidential candidates will be spending more time in Midwestern states than they did during the 2016 election cycle.
“That’s something I think that was taken for granted in the last race in regards to the Midwest in a sense,” Kennedy said. “It was almost as if I feel like it was almost like a given.
“Hopefully, we get a little bit more attention, not just Michigan, Ohio, all the manufacturing places.”

Benson discloses finances, urges lawmakers to require it

LANSING (AP) — Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson voluntarily disclosed her personal finances Thursday while calling on state lawmakers to make such reporting mandatory.
The Democrat posted a financial disclosure form on her department’s website. It is modeled after the statement used by Congress and lists her income, assets and other information.
Michigan is one of just two states where legislators pass and reject laws without the public knowing about their personal finances. Other state elected officials do not have to file disclosures either, though governors typically voluntarily release portions of their tax returns while gubernatorial candidates in the last election voluntarily issued versions of financial disclosure statements.
“If Michigan residents are to have confidence that their elected leaders are acting in their best interests, they must know who else, if anyone, may be influencing their decisions behind closed doors,” Benson said in a statement. “One of the best ways we can restore the public’s trust in our government is to require our elected leaders to fully disclose any outside income, investments, travel or gifts they may receive as candidates or elected officials.”
Financial disclosure bills have died previously in the Republican-led Legislature, where potential conflicts of interest become public record only if lawmakers take the rare step of recusing themselves from voting.
Benson, who took office in January, disclosed 2018 income that included a $300,000 salary to be CEO of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, a $70,000 salary to work as an associate law professor at Wayne State University and her husband’s $165,000 salary from the city of Detroit. She reported between $102,000 and $270,000 in three joint bank accounts along with between $250,000 and $500,000 in her 403(b) retirement account through Wayne State. Her husband had between $100,000 and $250,000 in a 401(k) account.
They listed no liabilities. Benson said she is on unpaid leave as a tenured Wayne State faculty member while serving as secretary of state.
Her announcement came during Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of open government. Benson on Wednesday launched a “transparency” webpage that includes her calendar, a link to her agency’s spending and information such as how to file a public-records request to her department.

Humane Society seeks release of dogs from Michigan lab

MATTAWAN, Mich. (AP) — The Humane Society of the United States is pushing for the release of three dozen dogs from a western Michigan laboratory, alleging that an undercover investigation found that they are being fed fungicides.
The animal rights group on Tuesday released the findings of its investigation conducted last year at Charles River Laboratories in Mattawan, which is about 10 miles west of Kalamazoo.
The Humane Society said it documented nearly two dozen experiments that involved animal testing.
“Our investigator, who spent nearly 100 days at the facility, documented the dogs cowering, frightened, in their cages with surgical scars and implanted with large devices. Dogs being force-fed or infused with drugs, pesticides and other products, using crude methods, many that are unlikely to ever be used in humans,” the Humane Society said on its website.
The group said one experiment involves 36 beagles that are being used in a yearlong pesticide test for a product being developed by Corteva Agriscience, which is a division of DowDuPont Inc. It said the dogs will be euthanized in July and is seeking their release so the organization can help find them homes.
Dow Chemical, which previously oversaw a fungicide business that’s now under Corteva and DowDuPont, said the company is looking for alternatives that wouldn’t involve animal testing.
“Animal testing is not something Dow undertakes lightly, but neither is it something the company can discontinue when it is required by regulatory authorities. Dow keeps its use of animal testing to an absolute minimum,” Dow Chemical said.
The animal testing is required by regulators in Brazil, Corteva said in a separate statement.
Animals are essential to understanding disease progression and drug safety, Charles River Laboratories officials said.

Reports on Michigan child welfare ‘depressing,’ says judge

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan’s new governor has inherited a troubled child-welfare system that has failed to protect foster kids from abuse and operates with a faulty computer network that might need to be scrapped after just five years, experts reported Wednesday.
A judge got an update on a case that is far from over, despite 13 years of litigation and $27 million spent on court-appointed monitors and lawyers to try to fix how the state cares for children who are removed from homes because of abuse and neglect.
“It’s pretty depressing to say the least,” U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds said of the reports.
It was the first hearing since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took office in January and installed a new team at the Department of Health and Human Services, known as DHHS. The child-welfare system has made progress in certain areas, such as faster adoptions and the return of children to their families, but it remains under court oversight with no quick exit possible.
The department under Gov. Jennifer Granholm was sued in 2006 on behalf of thousands of kids who were trapped in a cycle of physical and emotional abuse due to unfit foster families, miserable group homes and a lack of action by the state. A deal to make improvements withered in 2010 just as Rick Snyder was elected governor.
Court-appointed monitors reported some success during the Snyder administration. But the latest report, which covers data from 2017, is a clear setback. Nearly 12,400 children, most of them living with foster families or relatives, were under the state’s supervision by the end of that year.
The report said 1,270 children experienced repeated incidents of abuse or neglect. Children were being placed in homes without beds or where guns and ammunition were not properly stored, “many years after the monitoring team raised this as an issue at the highest levels” of the department.
“The problem remains unfixed,” monitor Eileen Crummy told the judge.

Prosecutor: officers justified

HARRISON, Mich. (AP) — A prosecutor says three central Michigan sheriff’s deputies were legally justified in the fatal shooting of an armed man who disregarded orders to drop his weapon.
Clare County Prosecutor Michelle J. Ambrozaitis said Tuesday she has reviewed investigative reports related to the Nov. 21 fatal shooting of 42-year-old Robert W. Reid III and decided the three officers involved acted lawfully.
Ambrozaitis said in a 16-page statement the Clare County sheriff’s deputies responding to a domestic disturbance saw Reid walk toward the residence holding a semiautomatic rifle and repeatedly yelled for him to drop the gun. MLive reports that when it became clear Reid wasn’t going to stop, Sgt. Aaron Miller, Deputy Steven Sentz, and Deputy Ryan Weakman fired on him.

Chief: Probe finds racially divided Detroit police precinct

DETROIT (AP) — A second white Detroit police officer has been fired for misconduct after his partner posted a racist video online, and an internal audit found that racial insensitivity is a “dirty little secret” in the west side police precinct where both worked, the city’s police chief said Tuesday.
The investigation into the 6th Precinct was launched this year after Gary Steele, then a police officer, posted a video on Snapchat of a black driver whom he had pulled over for having expired plates. He can be heard saying “priceless” and “bye Felicia” as the 23-year-old woman walks away. Video captions read “What black girl magic looks like” and “celebrating Black History Month.”
Steele was fired two weeks ago. Chief James Craig announced Tuesday that Steele’s partner, Michael Garrison, has also been fired for conduct unbecoming an officer, not reporting misconduct, neglect of duty, and being untruthful to investigators.
“While investigating former officer Steele, investigators determined that officer Garrison also repeatedly demonstrated disturbing actions while on the job,” said Craig, adding that the incidents were not isolated to the day the video was recorded.
Craig said about a dozen allegations were leveled against Garrison, including that he used names for African- and Arab-Americans that were “certainly racially insensitive, particularly when they’re focused on one or two demographics.”
Garrison also failed to report the Snapchat video to supervisors and was not truthful when making statements to investigators, Craig said.
Attorneys for the police union haven’t replied to a phone message seeking comment.
Police departments across the country are being scrutinized and criticized for their treatment of African-Americans and other people of color. Protests over the shootings of black men by white officers have upturned dozens of cities in recent years.
The audit “should be used as a template to address racism precinct by precinct and in special policing units,” said Kenneth Reed, spokesman for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality.
“The coalition challenges Chief Craig to continue audits for each precinct,” Reed said.
The misconduct investigations into Garrison and Steele ran parallel to the probe that revealed the 6th Precinct was “racially divided,” Craig said.

Judge says panel had authority to complete oil pipeline deal

Associated Press
LANSING — A Michigan panel’s approval of an oil pipeline tunnel beneath the Great Lakes will remain intact even though a state law set unconstitutionally long terms for authority members, a judge ruled.
The Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority was created by lawmakers and then-Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in December to quickly complete a deal between the state and Canadian pipeline company Enbridge to drill a tunnel below the channel that links lakes Huron and Michigan. It will encase a new segment of Line 5, replacing twin pipes that have lain along the lake bed since 1953.
Court of Claims Judge Stephen Borrello issued a decision Friday in a lawsuit filed by Robert Davis, who regularly sues state and Detroit-area officials.
He ruled that the Legislature violated the state constitution by specifying that the authority’s three members should serve six years. The constitution has a four-year limit for people who serve on state boards and commissions.
However, Borrello denied Davis’ contention that the unconstitutionally lengthy terms of office rendered the authority and its board unable to approve the pipeline agreement. The members’ authority to act in year one of their otherwise valid appointments was not affected, he said, calling the argument “devoid of legal merit.”
The ruling from Borrello — an appointee of former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm — comes as Democratic state Attorney General Dana Nessel reviews the legality of the contentious deal at the request of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
One of the issues Whitmer asked Nessel to look at is whether the requirement that authority members serve six years or more violates a constitutional four-year limit for newly created commissions. She also wants to know, among other things, whether the new law improperly made changes to a 1952 law.
Attorney general opinions are considered to bind state agencies unless reversed by a court.
Enbridge’s Line 5 carries crude oil and natural gas liquids used in propane from Superior, Wisconsin, through northern Michigan to refineries in Sarnia, Ontario.
It has drawn criticism in recent years from environmental groups, native tribes and tourism-related businesses fearful of a rupture that, according to worst-case scenarios outlined by university researchers, could pollute hundreds of miles of Great Lakes shoreline. Enbridge has steadfastly defended the pipelines, contending they are in sound condition and could last indefinitely. But with public pressure mounting, the company embraced the tunnel option.

Trump seeks cuts for cleanup of Great Lakes, other waterways

AP Environmental Writer
TRAVERSE CITY — President Donald Trump is making another attempt to slash federal funding that goes toward cleaning up major U.S. waterways including the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, even though Congress has thwarted his previous attempts, according to budget documents released Monday.
Trump’s 2020 spending blueprint for the Environmental Protection Agency proposes cutting most or all federal support for the programs, which benefit waters degraded by years of pollution, overdevelopment and exotic species invasions. His administration has argued repeatedly that state and local governments should foot the bill for nursing the waters back to health.
The biggest recipient is the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which was launched under former President Barack Obama in 2010 to deal with longstanding environmental problems in the lakes, which hold nearly one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water. It has distributed about $2.4 billion in support of more than 4,700 projects, including the removal of sediments laced with industrial toxins in harbors and tributary rivers.
Additionally, it has backed efforts to prevent runoff that feeds toxic algae blooms, prevent invasive species such as Asian carp from reaching the lakes, and restore wetlands and other wildlife habitat.
Trump’s budget offers $30 million for the initiative — a 90 percent drop from the $300 million it has gotten most years. The program has bipartisan support from members of Congress from New York to Minnesota, some of whom pledged to fight the latest proposal to gut it.
“It is vital that protecting and preserving the Great Lakes remains a national priority,” said Rep. Bill Huizenga, a Michigan Republican.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur, an Ohio Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, said the proposed reduction “is reckless, threatens our progress and puts the fresh water of over 30 million people at risk.”
Also targeted for a 90 percent cut is the Chesapeake Bay Program, which coordinates science, research, and modeling efforts and distributes grants to states, local governments and others for cleanup projects in the nation’s biggest estuary. It would get $7.3 million, down from $73 million this year.
“This is a slap in the face to a national treasure finally beginning to recover from decades of pollution,” said William Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
The Trump budget would zero out lesser sums for restoration work in the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Champlain, Long Island Sound, South Florida, San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound and several smaller waterways.
The EPA had no immediate comment.

UAW chief raises strike pay, issues warning to automakers

DETROIT (AP) — The president of the United Auto Workers union warned automakers that the union is prepared to strike if it doesn’t get its way in upcoming contract talks.
Gary Jones told delegates at the union’s bargaining convention in Detroit Monday that it would raise weekly strike pay from $200 to $250 per week this month and $275 in January of next year.
No one expects a strike, but the UAW is prepared to walk off the job, Jones told delegates. He said raising the payments is a symbol to members that the union has their backs.
The not-so-veiled warning likely is directed more at General Motors than Ford and Fiat Chrysler, the other two Detroit automakers. GM has proposed closing five factories in the U.S. and Canada by early next year as it grapples with falling demand for sedans. All three have a combined total of 154,000 workers represented by the UAW.
The move would eliminate about 6,000 jobs in the two countries, although GM says many workers will retire and that it has about 2,700 factory jobs open if workers transfer to other plants.
The company already has idled its small-car assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, and plans to close car factories in Oshawa, Ontario, and Detroit-Hamtramck, Michigan, by January of 2020. Also scheduled to close this year are transmission factories in Warren, Michigan, and near Baltimore.
The company has said the future of the U.S. factories will be decided in the upcoming contract talks. It has said the plants aren’t getting new products due to the shift from cars to SUVs and trucks and because GM needs to cut excess factory capacity to generate money to develop electric and autonomous vehicles.
Jones has promised to fight the plant closures in the courts and at the bargaining table. The UAW already has sued GM over closures, which it says violates the current contract. The union says GM is moving production to Mexico at the expense of U.S. workers.
Jones told members in a speech at the opening of the convention that the union’s strike fund now has over $721 million. The union increased dues in 2011 until the fund reaches $850 million. Delegates at the convention will decide the union’s bargaining priorities for the next four years.
“We’re gearing up for a fight, if we have to, by the fact that we did raise the strike fund,” said Darrell DeJean, a delegate to the convention from GM’s factory in Spring Hill, Tennessee. “We’re serious about this business. We’re serious about good-paying jobs for our members. We’re serious about keeping work in this country,” he said.
Talk of a strike is a different stance from contract talks that occurred since the automakers got into financial trouble in 2008. Until now, the union had pledged to be a business partner rather than an adversary.
A message was left Monday seeking comment from a GM spokeswoman.
Talks with Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler begin this summer. The four-year contracts with all three expire on September 15.
“We are solid heading into the next four years of bargaining,” Jones said in his speech. “We are one. The stakes are real, brothers and sisters. The stakes are high.”