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WHMI 93.5 FM Radio Station for Livingston County Michigan with News, Traffic, and Weather Service for Howell and Brighton

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    A Livingston County Commissioner and local resident have different thoughts on a broadcast committee’s decision to not record county meetings. At Wednesday night’s meeting of the Board of Commissioners, resident and community organizer Jordan Genso used his 3 minutes allowed during public comment as a “simple filibuster” to protest the decision that stopped county meetings from being broadcast. After a trial run that ran from April of 2018 until the end of the year, a broadcast committee made up of 3 Commissioners from the 2018 board voted 2-1 in favor of ending the recordings at their November 19th meeting. Genso said his comments were not meant to be adversarial, but he wants Commissioners to know that he is let down by this decision. Genso called it a step back in transparency, and that across several municipalities and townships, each level of government does it except for the county. He said, to him, he does not believe it to be a good decision or good governance. Genso expressed that he will continue to use his 3 minutes like this at future meetings and attempt to rally others who feel as he does to come and speak their thoughts. Commissioner Doug Helzerman was on the broadcast committee and voted in favor of stopping the broadcasts. He stated that the Board wants to be as transparent as possible, and that this is not an attempt to be otherwise. Helzerman said that he wants the public to be involved in their meetings, but that it is best for people to be there in person. He said the camera can give a good representation, but that it only catches some of what is happening in the room, and is not as good as being there live. Helzerman said that the 8 months of broadcasting were only a test. The committee wanted to see how many people used it, and then once they stopped broadcasting, what was the reaction of the people. He said that he didn’t have the exact numbers for how many people used the service before him, but that to him, they were “very, very low compared to the population of the county.” (MK)

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    Livingston County’s newest lawmaker and returning legislators will be sworn in this week. Ann Bollin of Brighton Township will be sworn-in Friday as state representative for the 42nd District. Bollin served as the longtime Brighton Township clerk prior to being elected in November to represent the people of the 42nd District. The district covers the southeast portion of Livingston County and includes Brighton, Genoa, Green Oak, Hamburg, and Putnam Townships and the City of Brighton. Friday’s ceremony will be held at the John E. LaBelle Public Safety Complex at 1911 Tooley Road in Howell Township from 5:30-7:30pm. A light reception will follow. In addition to Bollin, Lana Theis will be sworn-in as state senator for the 22nd District, and Hank Vaupel will be sworn-in for his third and final term as the 47th District state representative. The swearing-in ceremony is open to the public and all are welcome to attend. Those with questions or looking to RSVP can contact Ann Bollin at (517) 373-1784 or annbollin@house.mi.gov. (JM)

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    Firefighters battled a house fire in Marin Township Wednesday that displaced a man and killed two pets. The Howell Area Fire Department responded to the blaze that broke out around noon at a two-story home on Norton Road. Fire Chief Andy Pless tells WHMI fire was coming out of the first floor windows upon arrival. He says no one was home at the time of the fire but two dogs did perish. Livingston County EMS also responded on scene and the American Red Cross is helping to assist the adult male resident. No others were living in the house. Pless says the cause remains under investigation but is not believed to be suspicious. (JM)

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    A new rental subsidy program is being rolled out in the New Year in Downtown Howell. The program is geared towards retail, dining, arts and entertainment-based businesses looking to locate their business in downtown Howell. Through the support of Lake Trust Credit Union, Howell Main Street Inc. will be able to provide rental assistance for up to the first 12 months that the business is in operation. Only two businesses will be accepted and funded under the program for the 2019 pilot program. In addition, the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce is offering a free year of Chamber membership to the selected businesses. Interested new businesses must complete an application of interest and meet various criteria that will help ensure the business can be successful in the long-run in downtown Howell. Howell Main Street Chief Operating Officer Cathleen Edgerly tells WHMI the program idea was born out of past conversations with different partners in the state and modeled after some of the best ideas from across the country. Edgerly says the rental program was developed because they wanted to help small businesses but also help drive the types of businesses they want to see as well as those the community has indicates it wants to see. Edgerly says 2018 was a banner year with Howell being a Great American Michigan Main Street award winner and one of the top downtowns in the U.S. With that, she says they really started working with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Michigan Main Street and the local community on visioning for the future of the downtown, downtown development and what people want to see. Edgerly says they are blessed to only have a few vacancies downtown so the goal was how to get creative and really drive destinations people want to visit for shipping, dining, entertainment and the arts that will continue to make Howell an everyday destination for residents and visitors. The rental assistance program is the first of its kind to debut in Michigan. Howell will pilot the program and after the initial year plans to work with Lake Trust, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, as well as the Michigan Main Street Center to offer a similar program in other communities. Applications and program details are available through the provided link. (JM)

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    A local charity once again continued its Christmas tradition of delivering gifts to low income senior citizens around the area. Livingston County Catholic Charities completed its annual Christmas Blessings project last month. Under the direction of Director of Senior Services Suzi Snyder, the team worked with many individuals, schools, churches, and businesses to hold food drives, paper drives, and Christmas gift drives, and more. As a result, the group of over 50 volunteers delivered dozens of boxes that served 146 seniors. Qualified recipients were either homebound or live at or below 150% of the national poverty level. They were also each assisted through one of LCCC’s senior service programs or were referred through one of their community partners. Christmas Blessings began in 1988 as the brainchild of retired Senior Services Director Darlene Fraley and a local farmer who had 300 pounds of potatoes that he needed cleared out storage. (JK)

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    Discussions about recreational marijuana establishments are ongoing in Northfield Township, as officials continue to grapple with developing regulations and how much restriction is too much. The township’s Planning Commission has held discussions on developing parameters at several of their meetings and continued those talks on Wednesday night. Commissioners are providing their feedback to the township’s Planning Consultant, Paul Lippens, as he works to draft recommendations for a possible ordinance to the township’s Board of Trustees. At their most recent meeting, the Planning Commission focused on issues like lot sizes for businesses, buffers between schools and marijuana-related facilities, and a required distance, if any, between pot shops. The latter was an item that received a lot of attention during the discussion as there was some disagreement about whether the number of permitted shops should be regulated in an area or the distance between shops. Commissioners came to a general agreement on the main points discussed, but ultimately asked Lippens to provide more information in order to help them come to a final consensus. One such issue is the allowable distance between schools and marijuana establishments. Commissioners are debating whether the distance should be measured from door-to-door, or from the property line. They’re hoping for a more visual approach like a map when discussing the regulations at their next meeting. The Planning Commission is hoping to have a sample ordinance drafted by their next meeting. (DK)

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    Livingston County’s newly elected congresswoman has kept one of her campaign promises on her first day on the job. California Democrat Nancy Pelosi was elected speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives this afternoon. The final vote for Pelosi for speaker was 220 and 192 for Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. A significant number of the Democratic Party's candidates pledged to not back Pelosi for speaker after years of Republican ads casting her as a dangerous liberal. Pelosi clinched her election last month after promising to serve no more than four more years in the job. Of the 15 Democrats who didn't support Pelosi, 10 were incoming members. Twelve backed other Democrats and three voted "present." 8th District freshman Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin was among those three. Instead of casting a vote for Pelosi, Slotkin registered as "present" after the new Congress convened today. In voting present, the Holly Democrat kept her promise after earlier pledging to not support Pelosi on the campaign trail. There was no Democratic challenger running against Pelosi for the position. Prior to the vote, Slotkin expressed that she felt it was important to stick to her integrity for her very first vote. Slotkin said she and Pelosi share a very respectful relationship but reiterated that she was going to be consistent and as such, would not be supporting Pelosi on the floor today. (JM)

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    The Livingston County Board of Commissioners have re-elected their chair and vice chair. At Wednesday night’s meeting of the Board, County Commissioners voted in favor of keeping Don Parker as Chairman and Dennis Dolan as Vice Chairman. Parker thanked the Board for the vote of confidence and said he was very pleased with the work they accomplished last year. He said 2018 was a successful year, as they operated under a balanced budget and put an extra $9.3-million into their pension plan. Parker called it a real accomplishment to be able to do that while keeping adequate cash reserves and maintaining their Moody’s AAA bond rating. Parker said that being able to make that extra pension contribution for the promises made to employees while still maintaining the lowest tax rate of the 83 counties in Michigan is a real accomplishment. Going forward in 2019, he says that they will continue to build upon the foundations they’ve laid. He pointed out efforts and movement that will need to be taken as new guidelines come down from the state with regards to indigent, or public, defense as one of the challenges they will face. Parker also pointed towards the construction and completion on the new 9-1-1 building in the coming year. A 14-year member of the Board of Commissioners, Parker said he was honored and humbled to serve, and that he will continue to work hard for the people of Livingston County. (MK)

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    A restaurant in Genoa Township known for popular patio jazz on summer nights has closed. Burroughs Roadhouse closed quietly this week after hosting a New Year’s Eve dinner and comedy show event. An announcement was made via a Facebook post on Wednesday morning and simply stated “Burroughs Roadhouse is now closed. We would like to thank our friends and neighbors for all the love and support over the Years”. A sign in front of the business on Brighton Road reads closed and thanks Burroughs staff for everything. Attempts to contact the current owner have been unsuccessful. While a popular gathering place for locals, it’s been an overall a tough location for success and the restaurant has changed hands a few times over the years. It also has a haunted, historical past. The building was originally the Dorr family’s farmhouse, hence Dorr Road. In the 20th Century, Burroughs Farms was an employee recreation park comprising one square mile on Little Crooked Lake that was operated by the Burroughs Corporation from 1927, when the restaurant was established, until the late 1980's. Former owner Joe Agius previously told WHMI the restaurant is haunted and that he officially met the ghost several times over the the course of his five years, as did quite a few employees. (JM)

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    Livingston County’s newly elected congresswoman has kept one of her campaign promises on her first day on the job. California Democrat Nancy Pelosi was elected speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives this afternoon. The final vote for Pelosi for speaker was 220 and 192 for Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. A significant number of the Democratic Party's candidates pledged to not back Pelosi for speaker after years of Republican ads casting her as a dangerous liberal. Pelosi clinched her election last month after promising to serve no more than four more years in the job. Of the 15 Democrats who didn't support Pelosi, 10 were incoming members. Twelve backed other Democrats and three voted "present." 8th District freshman Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin was among those three. Instead of casting a vote for Pelosi, Slotkin registered as "present" after the new Congress convened today. In voting present, the Holly Democrat kept her promise after earlier pledging to not support Pelosi on the campaign trail. There was no Democratic challenger running against Pelosi for the position. Prior to the vote, Slotkin expressed that she felt it was important to stick to her integrity for her very first vote. Slotkin said she and Pelosi share a very respectful relationship but reiterated that she was going to be consistent and as such, would not be supporting Pelosi on the floor today. (JM)

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    Former Brighton Area Schools’ Board of Education Trustee John Conely has filed a formal complaint with the Michigan Dept. of State’s Bureau of Elections against the Brighton Education Association, charging violation of Section 57 of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act. The complaint was filed on Nov. 27th while Conely was still on the board serving out the remainder of his second, 4-year term, which expired at the end of the year. Conely says interviews of the six candidates for the Board of Education were held at Brighton High School on Sept. 19th. However, he says he was told afterward by school officials that the district had never given the BEA permission to hold the interviews on school grounds. Conely also charges in the complaint that the BEA used the district’s e-mail system and servers in contacting the candidates and that the BEA sent e-mails, in his words, “during classroom time to teachers listing the endorsed candidates.” BEA President Matt Dufon, contacted by WHMI, declined comment on the complaint. Listed in the complaint are Dufon and Ellen Lafferty and the Brighton Education Association - which represents about 310 teachers in the Brighton Area School District. Lafferty is the BEA immediate past president and BEA office manager. Conely asserts that the candidate interviews were reviewed by BEA leadership and led to endorsements of three of them, all of whom were subsequently elected. The BEA has called them recommendations, and not endorsements. Conely says the BEA has also stated that endorsed candidates may get money, in-kind donations, mailers, and volunteer campaign assistance. Conely says the salient point is that the interviews were held at Brighton High School, which he says is illegal under the Michigan campaign Finance Act. Conely says the Brighton Area Schools administration had also given the BEA notice not to engage in politics, elections, or anything considered illegal or inappropriate, on school property. At a fall Board of Education meeting Conely said he didn’t have a problem with the BEA holding its regular meetings at the school, but use of school facilities for candidate interviews was improper. But Conely now says the BEA shouldn’t even have an office in the high school since it is a private organization. In addition, Conely says that the BEA should reimburse the school district for use of the building for the candidate interviews, saying the standard rental charge is $100 per hour. It has been stated that Conely himself was interviewed at the high school in 2014 and didn’t seem to have an objection to it at that time. In response, he states that he didn’t know it was against the law at the time, but is now better informed.” Conely says he expects to hear back from the state regarding his complaint "any day now." The Brighton Area School District's legal firm previously informed school officials that it is legal for the teachers’ union to conduct candidate interviews in the school. The Thrun Law Firm in October reaffirmed to Superintendent Greg Gray that it was legal for the Brighton Education Association to have an office in a public school facility, use the school district’s e-mail account and hold meetings there. The Thrun firm represents the majority of Michigan school districts in legal matters. (TT/JK)

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    35-year-old James Witgen of Fowlerville was sentenced in Livingston County Circuit Court Thursday to a minimum of 10 years to a maximum of 30 years in the Michigan Department of Corrections. Court records show he was also sentenced to 10 to 22 and a half years in a separate case in which he was charged with 2nd degree criminal sexual conduct related to an incident that occurred in February of 2018. It was agreed that the sentences in all cases and charges run concurrent to one another and that Witgen’s habitual offender status would be reduced. Witgen will also be required to forfeit all computers and equipment that was seized from his home following an investigation conducted by the MSP Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Witgen was arrested in October by Michigan State Police troopers from the Brighton Post as a result of the investigation, which stemmed from a cyber tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Further investigation led to locating a residence in Fowlerville, where a search of the home netted multiple internet capable devices and evidence. Witgen in November pleaded guilty as charged to three counts each of child sexually abusive activity and possession of child sexually abusive material, six counts of using a computer to commit a crime and, in the separate case, 2nd degree criminal sexual conduct. (DK)

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    After multiple rounds of interviews and hours of debate, Brighton Township officials have chosen their new township Clerk. Joe Riker has been selected to fill the Clerk’s position that Ann Bollin vacated at the end of the year to serve in the State House of Representatives. The Brighton Township Board of Trustees received 8 resumes for the position and then brought 5 applicants in for interviews across special meetings held on Wednesday and Thursday night. Thursday’s interviewees were Riker and Brighton Township Zoning Board of Appeals member John Gibbons. Riker, who has a long record of military service and working with veterans in the area, told the Board it is his leadership skills that lead him to believe he is the best candidate for the job. Riker said that there are “probably more glorious jobs than public service, but I think it takes a special person to do it.” Following the interviews, the Board of Trustees voted on their 2 favorites, which came out to be both Riker and Gibbons. Trustee Lucille Weaire made a motion to appoint Gibbons, based largely on his financial background. Trustees Steve Combs and Mike Slaton voted with her. Supervisor Patrick Michel, Treasurer Rose Drouillard, and Trustee Sam Theis voted against. Theis and Michel expressed concerns about the more politically middle-of-the-road Gibbons not representing the values of the township’s residents as well as the conservative Riker. Riker served in former Congressman Mike Bishop’s Brighton office and as Vice Chair of the Livingston County Republican Party. When the vote stalemated at 3, Riker was nominated with the same result. Following a failed result for a 3rd candidate, and another 3-3 Riker vote, two separate motions to discuss the matter further on Monday also failed. Faced with not having signatures for payroll or bills, the Board elected to bring Riker and Gibbons back last night for further questions. Following their re-arrival and questioning, the 3rd motion of the night was made for Riker, which passed when Combs, following a long, extended pause during roll call, switched his vote to be in favor of the veteran.(MK)

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    The Board of Education at their Thursday night meeting first voted to elect the board’s officers. Michelle Crampo was reappointed as President, Melissa Mueller will no longer be a trustee having been elected as Vice President, Bill Wearne was reappointed as Treasurer and Bethany Mohr was once again elected to serve as Secretary. Superintendent Rick Todd then swore in all of the “new” board members who have joined within the last year, though they legally had already taken their oath when chosen for their seat. Those sworn in include Matt Maciag, who joined the board last January, Bill Wearne, who joined last May, Amanda Mortensen, who was elected in November, and James Velasco Sr., who was appointed to a vacant seat just last month. At the meeting, Superintendent Rick Todd shared some ideas he has to help board members get to know one another better in hopes of fostering even more teamwork and efficiency among them. One of those activities would be a “district tour” in which the entire board would visit each of the district’s schools to observe and talk with staff members as a way for them to get to know the district’s leadership. (DK)

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    The clock is ticking for the holder of a winning Michigan Lottery ticket purchased in Livingston County. The winner of the $250,000 Powerball prize has until next Thursday, January 10th to turn in the ticket, or the cash will go to the state’s education fund. The ticket was purchased at Cleary’s Pub in Howell on January 10th of 2018 with the lucky player matching four white balls and the Powerball to win $50,000. But thanks to the Powerplay, the prize was multiplied by five for a total prize of $250,000. The winning numbers were 7, 24, 33, 49 and 50 with a Powerball of 4. The prize must be claimed at the Lottery’s headquarters in Lansing and lottery officials say the winner should contact the Michigan Lottery Public Relations Division at (517) 373-1237 to schedule an appointment to collect the big prize. Powerball tickets are valid for one year from the drawing date. If the prize isn’t claimed before the ticket expires, the money will go to the state School Aid Fund. (JK)

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    An arraignment date has been set for the two men charged by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office with second-degree murder for a fatal meningitis outbreak. Barry Cadden, the co-founder of New England Compounding Center and Glenn Chin, who worked there as a pharmacist, will be arraigned March 1st in 53rd District Court by Magistrate Jerry Sherwood. Both Cadden and Chin are currently serving federal prison sentences for convictions in a separate case related to the 2012 national outbreak. At least 76 people died and hundreds more became ill nationwide because of tainted steroids. The attorney general's office charged Cadden and Chin last month in connection with 11 deaths in Livingston County, saying investigators connected the compounding pharmacy to Michigan clinics, including Michigan Pain Specialists in Genoa Township, which had dispensed the NECC contaminated steroids. Michigan officials waited to file charges until after Cadden and Chin were prosecuted in Boston federal court. Cadden is currently serving a nine year prison sentence, while Chin was sentenced to eight years in prison in the same Massachusetts court. (JK)

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    Local Democrats are alleging partisan politics in Brighton Township following the appointment of the new clerk. Joe Riker was selected to fill the Clerk’s position that Ann Bollin vacated at the end of the year to serve in the State House of Representatives. The Brighton Township Board received 8 resumes and 5 applicants were selected for interviews this week. After much debate between two candidates and split votes, the board voted to appoint Joe Riker as clerk during a special meeting last night. Riker has a long record of military service and served as the community liaison and veteran case worker for former Congressman Mike Bishop, who was unseated in November. He also served as vice chair of the Livingston County Republican Party. The other candidate, John Gibbons, has a deep background in finance and is a Zoning Board of Appeals member. Riker’s conservative views appeared to be the main sticking points for Supervisor Patrick Michel and Trustee Sam Theis, the husband of Republican Senator Lana Theis. Gibbons said he would likely run as a Republican for re-election, but really is more middle-of-the-road independent. During the meeting, some board members publicly expressed concerns about the more politically middle-of-the-road Gibbons not representing the values of the residents in as conservative a manner as Riker will. Livingston County Democratic Party Chairwoman Judy Daubenmier is raising concerns about blatant partisanship, saying Riker was selected solely for his conservative values. She says there was no discussion about whether or not Riker was qualified or more qualified than the other candidate – only that he was the most Republican and conservative and that’s what was needed. She says they didn’t care about whether he would serve the residents or knew anything about elections or knew anything about finances or public records, which are all part of the clerk job – only whether he was the most Republican. Daubenmier tells WHMI she knew the system was rigged from the start because the board arbitrarily excluded some candidates from even being interviewed with no explanation, no indication ahead of time and no public vote. Daubenmier says Riker’s appointment raises concerns that elections will no longer be fairly administered and there is no question in her mind that there was some type of deal made between Riker and Bollin which resulted in Riker dropping out of the primary election. Riker was originally running against Bollin for the 42nd District seat but pulled out of the primary race. Daubenmier says it was clear Riker needed a job to keep his political future in Livingston County viable, adding county taxpayers will be supporting him until it’s time for him to move up to higher office. Daubenmier said when Riker bowed out of a Republican primary, everyone wondered what he was promised for doing so. She doesn’t have any evidence but says it’s extremely suspicious that one day Riker is a state House candidate, the next he’s not and now, he is Brighton Township Clerk – adding people are not stupid and can see what’s going on. Riker issued the following statement in response to WHMI: "Thank you for reaching out to me for comment. It is truly hard to comment on such outrageous allegations. I was only in attendance for the interview itself and not for the debate that followed therefore, it would be inappropriate for me to speak to how the decision was made. I believe my resume easily meets the qualifications for the clerk position. It is ridiculous for Judy Daubenmier to suggest that any arrangements were made for me to drop out of the State House race with a promise to have the Clerk seat. That statement is simply false and offensive as I have done nothing but serve my country and all people with honor and integrity. The suggestion that a conversation between Representative Bollin and myself regarding the Clerk’s position, should she win the State Representative race, is ludicrous and never occurred. I look forward to fulfilling the duties of the clerk for every Brighton Township resident and continuing to serve my country and all citizens equally and fairly. I look forward to the opportunity given to me and thank the township for their trust to do so". (JM)

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    The Huron Valley School District is hosting a substitute teaching job fair on January 15th. The fair will run from 11am to 1:30pm at Milford High School in the Center for Performing Arts. Positions are available in a number of areas, including guest teachers, substitute para educators, custodians, bus drivers, special education, early childhood and food service staff, recreation and community education and more. Training will be provided and district staff members will be on hand to speak with applicants if they have any questions. For more information or to see a list of job postings, visit the link below. (AV)

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    Livingston County’s newest congresswoman is donating her paycheck during the ongoing government shutdown. The nearly two-week-old shutdown has crippled agencies and furloughed hundreds of thousands of workers. In a social media post, 8th District Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin stated she fundamentally disagrees with a policy that allows members of congress to receive a salary during the government shutdown while federal workers continue to go without pay. Until it re-opens, the Holly Democrat has pledged to donate her paycheck. Slotkin issued a formal letter to administration stating the same. Slotkin says as a former federal employee who was personally responsible for managing the furloughing of hundreds of personnel at the Department of Defense, due to sequestration and then due to a 17-day government shutdown, she has seen up close the damage that a government shutdown has on the mission of federal departments and the morale of federal personnel. (JM)

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    Committee assignments have been made for Livingston County Senator Lana Theis. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey on Thursday announced the chairs of committees for the Michigan Senate’s 100th Legislative session. Senator Lana Theis was among the 21 senators appointed. Formerly the chair of the House Insurance Committee, Theis will now chair the re-combined Senate Insurance and Banking Committee as well as the Senate Education Committee. The Brighton Township Republican said she is both honored and excited to chair both the Insurance and Banking and the Education committees where she can work with colleagues in both chambers on issues such as lowering auto insurance rates. Theis said chairing the Education Committee, she and others can work to ensure teachers have the flexibility they need in the classroom to do their job properly. One of the senator’s top priorities for the upcoming session is working with the Senate majority leader and fellow colleagues to address what she says are Michigan’s skyrocketing auto insurance rates, address those cost drivers, and find ways to lower the cost drivers. (JM)

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