Cheyna Roth | Michigan Radio

Cheyna Roth

Capitol Reporter

Cheyna Roth

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR.

Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN.

Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker.

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer will decide if Michigan should legalize online gambling and sports betting. The Legislature has been working on these bills for years. Then Governor Rick Snyder vetoed similar bills during his final month in office last year.

Whitmer and supporters in the Legislature have been working on the bills for months. Whitmer has been concerned that the new methods of gambling would draw money away from the state Lottery. The Lottery puts money toward the School Aid Fund.

Rep. Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg)
Michigan House of Representatives

Embattled Republican state Representative Larry Inman appeared for state House session Wednesday. This is the day after a jury returned a verdict in a federal criminal case against him.

African American man with facial recognition scan
Pro-stock Studio / Adobe Stock

A bill recently passed in the state Senate would prevent law enforcement from using facial recognition technology.

Republican Senator Peter Lucido is a bill sponsor. He says technology is developing faster than state laws.

“This is just a law to catch up to what it is that is going on. People are being searched without any warrant based on electronics,” Lucido said.

water faucet
Flickr user Bart /

New bills in the state House would put Michigan’s water – including groundwater – in a public trust. That means that the waters would have to be reserved for the public’s use, and the state would have to protect the water for that purpose.

Bo Harvey / Unsplash

Some Democratic state lawmakers want universal background checks for all people looking to own a firearm. They plan to introduce bills in the House and Senate.

illustration of person wearing an ankle tether
Adobe Stock

The Michigan Department of Corrections says it will be able to keep its tether program up and running through 2020. The program tracks an estimated 4,000 people on probation, parole, and supervised release. 

Verizon was scheduled to change its wireless system at the end of 2019, and the department didn’t have the money for new tethers. Now, Verizon is holding off until the end of next year, which means the tethers won’t “go dark” after all. 

governor gretchen whitmer standing at a podium
Cheyna Roth / Michigan Radio

Updated Dec. 2, 2019 at 10:58 a.m.:

After being delayed one month, new policies, which will make it easier for families to receive public assistance, have now taken effect. 

State Rep. Larry Inman talking to reporters
Rick Pluta / Michigan Radio

State Representative Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg) is headed to trial this week. Inman is accused of trying to sell his vote on a controversial measure. He’s been charged with multiple federal crimes, including lying to law enforcement. Soon after he was indicted, the state House stripped Inman of his committee positions and took away his Lansing office. But Inman has refused to step down from his position. His attorney maintains his innocence.

The Lansing capitol dome with a blue sky behind it and trees in front of it
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Lawmakers return to Lansing next week. There are three scheduled weeks of session before the end of the year, and legislative leaders are hoping to make the best of it.

Bills that have been introduced this year won’t “die” on December 31st. But all the seats in the House will be up for election in 2020, which means getting things done in Lansing will likely give way, at least a little bit, to election season.

A priority for Republicans and Democrats is legislation involving gambling. The package of bills would legalize sports betting and online gaming – among other things.              

mr.smashy / Flickr

State Democrats are hoping to focus on changes to the state’s gun laws as the year winds down. Lansing lawmakers only have three weeks of session planned before the end of the year.

Adobe Stock

It's happening. Starting Sunday, December 1, 2019, Michiganders over the age of 21 will be able to purchase recreational marijuana from licensed retailers.

But you can’t just walk down to your nearest pot shop without a medical card and stock up. The licensing process is still in the very early stages, and only a handful of businesses will be open starting on Sunday.

Rep. Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg)
Michigan House of Representatives

A group of voters has filed almost 14,000 signatures to try and oust Republican state Representative Larry Inman. Inman is facing a federal trial for charges that include bribery and lying to law enforcement.

Chris Cooke, Inman's attorney, says the petition makes it sound like Inman has been convicted.

garlin gilchrist
Cheyna Roth / Michigan Radio

Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist became the first African American Lieutenant Governor to sign a bill into law Thursday.

Photo courtesy of the family of Jilmar Ramos-Gomez

The ACLU of Michigan is suing Immigration and Customs Enforcement to get records related to the arrest and detention of Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a Marine combat veteran who faced possible deportation last year.

The ACLU says it filed a Freedom of Information Act request in March to get the records. So far, it says no records have been released.

Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr -

Some Democratic state lawmakers want to expand access to affordable housing across the state.

New bills introduced on Tuesday would prevent landlords from excluding certain sources of income when determining if the potential tenant qualifies for housing. Those income sources include Section 8 vouchers, disability income, and veterans’ assistance. 

michigan senate majority leader mike shirkey

Democratic lawmakers are criticizing remarks by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake).

During a recent appearance on Radio Free Hillsdale, Shirkey said allowing abortion is comparable to “the scourge we endured when we still had slavery in this country.”

The International Symbol of Access
wikimedia user Ltljltlj / / Public Domain

A federal lawsuit against two Detroit-area Kohl’s department stores can go forward. The stores in Novi and Northville are accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Daimeon Mosley from Arizona says their bathrooms are not accessible.

A lower court said that Mosley did not have standing and his case could not go forward. The court said that’s because Mosley is not from Michigan and he had only been to the stores once.

Mosley argued that he does because he has family in Michigan and is likely to return to the Kohl’s department stores.

white tailed deer
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Hunting season is underway. And lawmakers are trying to quickly move a bill that would allow deer or elk baiting.

Right now, a state rule bans baiting and feeding in the Lower Peninsula and parts of the Upper Peninsula. The Department of Natural Resources says it’s meant to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.

The Michigan State House of Representatives in Lansing, Michigan
user CedarBendDrive / flickr

When Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the state budget, she also moved some money around within the budget. She did that using the state Administrative Board.

Now Republicans want to put limits on her ability to do that going forward. They introduced bills that would do things like cap how much money the governor could move around within departments.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A plan to expand the state’s expungement laws passed out of the state House Tuesday.

The bills would add additional crimes to what can be taken off of a person’s record. Those include most traffic offenses and some actions involving marijuana that are now legal under the state’s recreational marijuana law.

Marijuana plant
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Ten communities will decide on Tuesday whether they want businesses to be able to sell recreational marijuana.

Last November, the state passed a law legalizing recreational marijuana. Since then, the issue has been debated in communities around the state.

person in grey hoodie wearing handcuffs
oconairekat / Adobe Stock

Starting in October 2021, 17-year-olds will no longer automatically be treated as adults in Michigan’s criminal justice system.

Michigan will join the vast majority of other states that treat 17-year-olds as children. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the bills Thursday.

Jocelyn Benson
Benson for Secretary of State

Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson was grilled by a Senate Elections committee on Wednesday. Republican lawmakers questioned Benson about the implementation of a new independent redistricting commission.

The commission was authorized after voters passed a ballot measure last November. It will redraw the state’s political district lines. The application process is now open.

Senator Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) is concerned about how the commission members will be selected. It will be random but also weighted for geographic and demographic representation.

The chamber in Michigan's State Capitol.
CedarBendDrive/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Democratic state lawmakers say all people need to be able to make independent decisions about their reproductive health.

House Democrats announced their plan for a so-called Michigan Reproductive Health Act on Tuesday. The package would, among other things, repeal abortion waiting periods, restrictions on telemedicine for abortions, and any regulations of abortion facilities that are not deemed medically necessary.

Former MSU President Lou Anna Simon
File photo / MSU

Former Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon has been ordered to stand trial on charges she lied about her knowledge of allegations against now-imprisoned ex-sports doctor Larry Nassar.

Eaton County District Judge Julie Reincke ruled Monday.

Cheyna Roth / Michigan Radio

Republicans say Governor Whitmer broke their trust when she rearranged millions of dollars in the spending plan they sent to her. Whitmer used the power of the State Administrative Board to transfer money within departments. This was after Republicans sent her a budget without her input.

People can now apply to be on the state's new 13-member Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced the launch of the online application process Thursday.

School bus
Bill McChesney / Creative Commons

A bipartisan group of lawmakers say school busses need to be more secure.

A package of bills would make it a crime to enter a school bus without the permission of the driver. In some cases, it would be a felony.

person smoking an ecigarette
fedorovacz / Adobe Stock

Some lawmakers want to prevent the Department of Health and Human Services from issuing rules restricting access and use of vaping products. Lawmakers debated the bill (HB 5019) in front of a House committee Tuesday.

This comes after MDHHS issued emergency rules banning the sale and manufacturing of flavored vaping products with more than 2% nicotine. 

Michigan Department of Transportation

The findings of a $100,000 study were improperly influenced by lobbyists. That’s according to a new state Auditor General report.

According to emails and documents obtained by the Detroit Free Press, the Michigan Aggregates Association was a primary gravel lobbying firm that influenced the study.