Rep. Fred Upton says he will seek 18th term in Congress

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Republican congressman Fred Upton announced Monday he will seek re-election to his Sixth Congressional District seat located in the southwest corner of the state.
In announcing his bid for an 18th term, Upton said there is “unfinished”

FILE – In this May 3, 2017, file photo, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., left, speaks to reporters outside the White House in Washington. Upton announced Monday, Feb. 24, 2020 he will seek re-election to his Sixth Congressional District seat located in the southwest corner of the state. In announcing his bid for an 18th term, Upton said there is “unfinished” business that has to be completed, including fighting the opioid epidemic and immigration reform. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

business that has to be completed, including fighting the opioid epidemic and immigration reform.
“I am raising my hand and committing to work with anyone of any party to deliver results, protect our communities and simply solve problems,” Upton said in a statement. “Despite what you hear, there are good people in both parties doing good work. We just need more of them.”
Upton has served under five presidents during his more than 30 years in Congress. His re-election campaigns have emphasized what he calls “common-sense values” and bipartisan accomplishments.
Upton, 66, was being watched closely as a potential House retiree as Republicans attempt to regain the chamber majority in the November elections.
He entered the House in 1987.
But while several departing GOP lawmakers have included the frustrations of being in the chamber’s minority among their reasons for leaving, Upton said in an interview that the rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination “probably” was a factor in his decision to run again. Many Republicans believe a Sanders nomination would dramatically increase their chances of capturing House control.
Upton told The Associated Press he believed Sanders would hurt the campaigns of down-ballot Democratic candidates, saying Sanders is “too much to chew on” for many Michigan voters.
Twenty-seven Republicans are not seeking reelection to the House, and four others have already resigned and left office. The GOP will need to gain 18 seats to take over the House, assuming it retains several vacant seats it formerly controlled.
Upton voted against the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Before casting his vote, Upton called the impeachment process “highly partisan and clearly motivated by what I believe is an attempt to overturn the last election.”
Trump was accused of abusing his power by asking Ukraine to investigate his 2020 rival, Joe Biden, while holding military aid as leverage. He also was accused of obstructing Congress by blocking the House’s efforts to probe his actions.
Upton served as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee from 2010 to 2016, and he is currently the vice chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus. His southwest Michigan district includes Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties and most of Allegan County.

Boyd to lead statewide court office

LANSING (AP) — A Lansing-area judge who has been outspoken about how Michigan’s local courts are financed is resigning to become administrator of the state court system.
Tom Boyd has been a District Court judge in Ingham County since 2005. The Michigan Supreme Court, in announcing the appointment, described him as “one of the state’s most active judges in working to improve the legal system and the administration of justice.”
Boyd will lead the State Court Administrative Office. Milton Mack is becoming administrator emeritus and will focus on mental health issues in the justice system.
Boyd was chairman of the Trial Court Funding Commission, which last year recommended that court revenue be sent to Lansing for distribution to local courts based on caseload and other factors.
Under the current system, courts rely on defendants — typically poor people — to pay a share of operating costs along with any fines for their wrongdoing. Judges have been unfairly pressured by local governments to raise a certain amount of money.
Changes would require a new law.

2 communities offer land for Detroit Zoo center

MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. (AP) — Two Macomb County communities are proposing to give land to entice the Detroit Zoo to build a nature center.

The offer from the Clinton Township and Mount Clemens shows the popularity of the proposed $20 million project. The property would be used for the zoo to construct the 30,000-square-foot (2,787-square-meter) Great Lakes Center for Nature, according to a news release.

Zoo officials said Sunday that there are more than 20 potential sites and a decision will be made soon, the Detroit Free Press reported.

“We are appreciative of the proposal generated by the Clinton Township Board of Trustees and Mount Clemens City Commission as well as their enthusiasm for the project,” Ron Kagan, executive director and CEO of the Detroit Zoological Society, said in a statement. “DZS has carried out extensive due diligence analyzing critical criteria, including site lines, size, adjacent features, access, soil and other environmental conditions. We anticipate finalizing the site selection in the very near future.”

The proposed land from Clinton Township and Mount Clemens is at Shadyside Park — along the banks of the Clinton River Spillway. It touches both communities, said township Trustee Michael Keys.

In February 2018, zoo and County officials announced the zoo would start building a freshwater nature center within a year.

The nature center project, originally proposed to be 20,000 square feet (1858 square meter) and cost $10 million, did not start as intended. It increased in size and cost to accommodate “a larger building and more habitats and programming,” Detroit Zoo Communications Director Patricia Janeway previously told the newspaper.

Macomb County was chosen to be the center’s home because it has 32 miles (52 kilometers) of coastline along Lake St. Clair and 31 miles (50 kilometers) along the Clinton River.

Mount Clemens Mayor Laura Kropp said the zoo has not approached the city about establishing the nature center there but noted it would benefit the region.

“In partnership with our neighbor Clinton Township, we are confident that we have the scale to make this a true destination point that will attract residents and visitors from throughout the region and all of Michigan,” she said.

State adds 600 acres to lands

VANDERBILT (AP) — Michigan’s 108,000-acre Pigeon River Country State Forest is getting a nearly 600-acre addition in a land deal valued at more than $2 million, according to the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
The property purchase, finalized last month, adds the Elk Forest at Black River, which is in Montmorency County, to the state’s public lands. The area is surrounded on three sides by existing state-managed land and includes public access to Walled Lake.

Michigan panel to consider limits on ‘forever chemicals’

LANSING (AP) — A Michigan panel is preparing to consider proposed limits on some nonstick, water-resistant chemicals in drinking water.
An oversight committee is expected to vote Thursday on regulations developed by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy that would set maximum levels of seven types of chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.
The chemicals are used in a wide variety of industrial and consumer products and have been linked to numerous health problems, including liver damage, low birth weights and some types of cancer.
They are widely described as “forever chemicals” because they persist in the environment.
Among the compounds that would be regulated are PFOA and PFOS, which are among the oldest chemicals in the class and have been phased out in the United States.
The Environmental Rules Review Committee could approve or reject the proposed regulations or make changes.
The rules would apply to about 2,700 water suppliers across the state.
They would have to sample their water periodically for the seven chemicals, notify the public if the maximum levels are exceeded, and use cleanup technology as needed.
Officials with the Michigan environment department said they had received more than 3,400 public comments on the proposals.

Michigan teacher won’t let student write about gay marriage

MONTROSE, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan teacher has denied a request from a student with two mothers to write about same-sex marriage for a class assignment.
Destiny McDermitt, a junior at Hill McCloy High School in Montrose, was given an assignment earlier this month to write a speech discussing an issue they felt strongly about and to take a stand for or against it, M-Live reported.
The teacher, who the district is not naming, allegedly told McDermitt she couldn’t write about same-sex marriage because the topic could offend someone in the class, according to McDermitt and other students in the classroom at the time.
McDermitt wanted to ask her classmates if the topic offended them, but the teacher allegedly said no. The student wrote a complaint letter to school administrators and later moved to a different class.
“(It) offended me because I have two moms (who) are married and I really thought it was inappropriate,” McDermitt wrote.
Linden Moore, Montrose Community Schools superintendent, said the district investigated the incident and concluded McDermitt’s topic was not the only one denied and that the teacher needed to be more clear about the perimeters of her assignments.
“The teacher was thinking smaller and the kids were thinking bigger,” Moore said.
In the description of the “Take a Stand Speech” assignment, there were no restrictions that applied specifical

In this Feb. 13, 2020 photo, Christine Jackson, left, and Angela McDermitt-Jackson , right, sit with their daughter Destiney McDermitt at their home in Montrose, Mich. The family is upset that Destiney McDermitt was not allowed to write about gay marriage for a paper in school. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)

ly to same-sex marriage. The only topics banned from being picked were issues written about in another class or “anything that is awkward or inappropriate for a school audience.”
Abortion was listed as an example.
A section of the school policy titled “Controversial Issues” states the Montrose Board of Education believes that the consideration of controversial issues have a legitimate place in the instruction in schools.
McDermitt’s parents, Angela McDermitt-Jackson and Chris Jackson, were married in Illinois months before the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage across the country. McDermitt-Jackson was upset to hear her daughter was not allowed to write about the topic.
“We’re grown adults. These are our children,” McDermitt-Jackson said. “We went through issues when we decided to be together, but these are our children. They don’t need to be subjected to it.”

Impeachment an afterthought for vulnerable Democrat lawmaker

EAST LANSING (AP) — A man held up a hostile poster a few rows back Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin as she spoke. On other side of the room, allies hoisted a Slotkin-friendly banner. But the most striking sign at Slotkin’s first town hall since President Donald Trump’s impeachment and acquittal was the one that wasn’t there.
Inside East Lansing High School’s auditorium Friday there were no boos. No rowdy interruptions. No pauses in the program to let the tension pass, even in this swing House district at the center of a 2020 presidential battleground state.
This newfound civility at a Slotkin town hall was a sharp contrast from the five raucous public gatherings during the House impeachment proceedings last fall. The tenor suggested that Republican attacks on Democrats for backing impeachment may fall flat in some places. And it offered a snapshot of how effectively Democrats are making that turn from the doomed process to their agenda and the November elections.
Slotkin, 43, does not adopt a harsh anti-Trump posture. She focuses instead on lowering prescription drug costs and making drinking water safe. She is testifying in Washington this week on infrastructure, and she’ll soon introduce a border security bill.
When asked, she’ll discuss the contentious Democratic presidential primary, whether Trump himself is a national security threat and, of course, impeachment.
At Slotkin’s town hall on Friday, she did not mention what Trump calls “the i-word.” The issue only came up in the last audience question read by an aide: Does the congresswoman regret her vote to impeach?
“There are some things that are more important than winning your next election,” Slotkin, a former CIA officer who worked under Republican and Democratic presidents, said from the stage. “So, I don’t regret it.”
Her standing with voters will ultimately be tested in November. Though she is considered a vulnerable freshman incumbent who ousted a Republican congressman, she maintains robust fundraising and the strong backing of her party in a district Trump won by 7 percentage points.
Slotkin reported raising $1.3 million in the fourth quarter, and ended the year with nearly $2.9 million on hand — the most of any vulnerable Democrat, according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But that was a trend among this group of 42 Democrats in difficult races supported by the party’s Frontline program.
Republicans are struggling over who her opponent should be, with five hopefuls who spoke the night before Slotkin’s town hall in conservative Livingston County. None has raised anything close to Slotkin’s campaign cash. About a dozen showed up outside the town hall Friday to chant and carry signs that said things like “Impeach Slotkin.” Some of Slotkin’s supporters answered them as they waited in line. A small group of police officers watched.
Paul Junge, a former TV broadcaster who is one of the five Republicans hoping to challenge Slotkin, suggested she’s more like members of the liberal “Squad” of new congresswomen who called for Trump’s impeachment virtually since their first day in Congress.
“I think her judgment and her values are just out of step with the 8th District and we deserve better representation,” said Junge, who has nearly $235,000 on hand, including a loan to his campaign of $125,000.
For Slotkin and Democrats like her, the question is whether voters buy the focus on local issues in the Twitter-centric Trump era, said Michigan GOP consultant John Sellek. In Slotkin’s case, he pointed out, she sought a national profile by speaking widely about her background as a former CIA officer and taking leading roles on impeachment and Iran.
“All these races are now nationalized,” Sellek said. “This entire election for the 8th Congressional District is not about East Lansing, Brighton and Rochester. Essentially it’s about President Trump.”
On the subject of the president, Slotkin treads carefully. She’s been clear that she’s deeply troubled by his pressure on Ukraine to help him politically, as well as his effort to sideline members of the intelligence community. His emboldened conduct against the FBI after his acquittal, she said in an interview before the town hall, is concerning.
Asked whether given the broad range of Trump’s behavior and her expertise, he is a security threat, Slotkin pauses for a few seconds and references his decisions: Trump’s pullout of Syria, his provocations against North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and his deference

FILE – In this Dec. 16, 2019, file photo, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., holds a constituent community conversation at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich. After the new member of Congress supported the impeachment of President Donald Trump, she will have to run for re-election in a Trump friendly district. Though she is considered a vulnerable freshman incumbent who ousted a Republican congressman, she maintains robust fundraising and has the strong backing of her party. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I think decidedly many of them make us less safe and are a threat to our national security,” Slotkin said in her district office. But she’s quick to add that she agrees with Trump on some policies, such as the USMCA trade agreement.
For Slotkin, the post-impeachment reality in a district both she and Trump won is about being a Democrat without siding with the party’s more vocal progressives. So for now, she’s not endorsing anyone in the ferocious Democratic presidential nominating contest. She won’t watch their debates, because she is “embarrassed by the bickering.” She says she will, however, endorse the eventual Democratic presidential nominee.

Judge OKs settlement over west Michigan contamination

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A federal judge on Wednesday approved a settlement with a western Michigan footwear company that faced a lawsuit over groundwater tainted with potentially harmful “forever” chemicals that are turning up in drinking water across the industrial state.
Wolverine Worldwide did not admit liability, but it agreed to pay $69.5 million in a consent decree with the state of Michigan and Plainfield and Algoma townships that will go toward extending a municipal water system to about 1,000 homes with private wells that were affected by the contamination.Wolverine Worldwide announced Thursday that Minnesota-based chemical manufacturer 3M, which it sued in 2018, will pay $55 million toward Wolverine’s remediation efforts.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, more commonly known as PFAS, long were used in scores of industrial applications, don’t break down easily and can migrate from soil to groundwater. Some studies have found the chemicals can be harmful to human health.
The deal also includes what is described as “comprehensive remediation plans” at the former tannery site along with additional studies and monitoring. Additionally, the company would continue to maintain water filters for homeowners without municipal water with PFAS levels over 10 parts per trillion, and provide some money for a filtration system for a water plant.
The approval by U.S. District Court Judge Janet Neff in the Western District of Michigan means work should begin this spring and take about five years to complete. The tentative settlement with Wolverine Worldwide and the townships was reached in December.
The final deal ends the lawsuit among the parties but not cases filed against the company by some residents.
Wolverine Worldwide has said it believes actions it’s taking as part of this settlement could resolve other cases.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a statement saying the settlement should prompt the “real, tangible action” that residents have sought.
In its statement, Wolverine Worldwide said the deal “provides expedient and expansive relief, and is in the best interests of affected homeowners, the surrounding communities and the state of Michigan.”

Falling concrete injures woman

MASON, Mich. (AP) — Wood barriers will be placed beneath a bridge over U.S. 127 near Mason after a woman was injured when concrete fell from a bridge and broke through her windshield, Michigan Department of Transportation officials said Thursday.
The Ingham County Sheriff’s Office says the 38-year-old woman on Wednesday was driving north on U.S. 127 at Barnes Road when the concrete fell, striking her in the head. The woman was taken to a nearby hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Transportation Department crews inspected the bridge after the accident, removing pieces of loose concrete on the Barnes Road bridge and others along U.S. 127.
The Barnes Road bridge in June was rated in “fair” condition, a step below “good” but a step above a “poor” rating. It was scheduled for another inspection in June.

Ex-UAW official sent to prison

DETROIT (AP) — A former United Auto Workers union official who received bribes and kickbacks from a vendor has been sentenced to 28 months in prison.
Mike Grimes of Fort Myers, Florida, was accused of receiving more than $1.5 million in bribes, including $10,000 worth of cosmetic surgery for a relative while working at a UAW-General Motors training center. Grimes, 66, pleaded guilty in September to money laundering and conspiracy charges.
The sentence imposed Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman is longer than the two years sought by prosecutors. During his sentencing, Grimes apologized to UAW members and his family, acknowledging he “got into something I shouldn’t have.”
Grimes is the first of three convicted UAW leaders to be sentenced for their roles in a bribery and kickback scheme involving rigged bids, union vendors and contracts for watches, backpacks and other promotional merchandise.