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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.

Ways to Connect

prison bars
Flickr user FatMandy / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Lawmakers at the state Capitol have made changing the state’s criminal justice system a priority this session.

Two packages of bills are close to the governor’s desk – with crucial votes taking place earlier this week.

One bill package would raise the age for when a person is automatically considered an adult for certain crimes from age 17 to 18. Some counties have raised concerns about the costs of making the change.

Senator Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Township) is a bill sponsor. He says they’re working with counties to alleviate some of their concerns.

pile of one dollar bills
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The leader of the state Senate Republicans says he’s not in favor of Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's call for candidates to disclose their financial information.

Last month, Benson said she wants the Legislature to pass bills that would require elected officials to disclose any outside income, investments, travel or gifts they got as candidates or after they were elected.

prison bars
Thomas Hawk / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A new task force will explore who is in Michigan’s jails and why they’re there. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Wednesday.

The order creates a bipartisan team to review the jail and court data collected from Michigan counties. Then the task force will use the information to look for improvements to the system and make recommendations to the Legislature.

Michigan State University
John M. Quick / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Former Michigan State University president Lou Anna Simon has some time off from court. Simon has been charged with multiple felonies. A hearing to determine if she should stand trial will continue in June.

The state Attorney General’s office says Lou Anna Simon lied about what she knew about a 2014 complaint against former MSU sports doctor Larry Nassar. A judge sentenced Nassar to at least 40 years in prison for sexually assaulting his patients.

Marijuana plant
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

State lawmakers want to put in place a final deadline for medical marijuana facilities to get a license, or not be able to stay open.

A state House committee unanimously passed a bill Wednesday. It gives a June 1st deadline for facilities – and if they stay open without a license, the facility can’t get a license for a year.

Cheyna Roth / Michigan Radio

The state Attorney General’s Office is trying to show that former Michigan State University president Lou Anna Simon lied to investigators to protect the university.

Simon was in court Monday for the second day of a hearing to determine whether she should stand trial for charges that she lied to law enforcement.

Former MSU President Lou Anna Simon
File photo / MSU

The former president of Michigan State University will be back in court on Monday. Lou Anna Simon is facing multiple criminal charges – including two felonies.

Lou Anna Simon stepped down from the presidency at MSU soon after former university sports doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced for multiple sexual assault convictions.

Simon has since been charged with lying to law enforcement.

The attorney general’s office says Simon lied about what she knew about Nassar and when. The Attorney General’s office opened an investigation into MSU last year. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan lawmakers in Washington DC want veterans to receive full coverage for health problems stemming from PFAS exposure.

The industrial chemicals have been discovered in sites across Michigan and the U.S., many of them military bases.

minimum wage
Adobe Stock

The state's new minimum wage and earned sick time laws take effect today. But there’s lingering controversy about how the measures made it into law.

Lawmakers adopted the ballot questions before they could go to voters – and then made significant changes before sending them to then-governor Rick Snyder for his signature.

“It’s not a true victory,” said Danielle Atkinson, a leader of the campaign to change the state’s sick time laws.” It’s not what the people of Michigan asked for, wanted or need.”

Trump welcome sign
Cheyna Roth / Michigan Radio

President Donald Trump revved up his supporters in Grand Rapids last night on issues ranging from the Mueller investigation, to health care, to immigration.

It was a homecoming for President Trump, whose appearance comes on the heels of the report from special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Trump is celebrating that the investigation failed to find evidence of collusion between his presidential campaign and the Russian government

elderly woman
Pixabay

The governor’s office, Legislature, attorney general’s office and the Michigan Supreme Court are joining forces to try and prevent the abuse of vulnerable and elderly adults.

The National Council on Aging estimates one in ten older adults are victims of elder abuse in the United States. It can be physical abuse, keeping people isolated, and even theft.

LGBT Pride Flag
Tyrone Warner / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The state of Michigan has promised to make sure adoption and foster agencies that receive state money do not discriminate against same-sex couples.

Michigan governor's office

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed her first bill into law on Thursday. The new law will keep a judge’s seat in a court in the Upper Peninsula.

Representative Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain) represents part of the Upper Peninsula, including Menominee County, where the judge will be. He sponsored a similar bill in the state House.

“We want to make sure that judges don’t have to drive 250 miles to ensure the due process rights of everybody,” he said. “Doesn’t matter if you’re in Monroe or Menominee. You have a right to due process and that means you've got to have a judge close by.”

The current judge plans to retire at the end of the month. Under state law, his retirement would have eliminated the district judge position due to attrition.

Michigan AG Bill Schuette
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Several years ago, Progress Michigan started what would become a years long court battle with then-attorney general Bill Schuette.

The group accused Schuette and his office of using private emails for state business in 2016. The group filed a public records request for emails that were sent using private accounts.

Corner of a library with bookshelves and a study table
Blue Mountains Library / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

State lawmakers want to give librarians immunity from any issues that could arise if they administer opioid overdose medication. A state House committee passed bills on Tuesday that would do that.

The quiet, secluded nature of libraries makes them an attractive place for some drug users to get their fix. Librarians can administer overdose medication like Narcan. But some don’t carry it because they could be sued if something goes wrong.

CREDIT WWW.ECIGCLICK.CO.UK / CREATIVE COMMONS HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Law enforcement in Michigan wants to make it illegal for minors to possess vaping products and for retailers to sell e-cigarettes to minors. But an ongoing debate in the state Legislature has police and prosecutors frustrated.

Former Governor Rick Snyder vetoed legislation to ban the sale and possession of e-cigarettes for minors.

He said e-cigarettes should be classified and regulated like tobacco instead. But now, lawmakers in Lansing are trying to – once again – focus on the sale, not the classification.

Empty classroom
Motown31 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan has been steering money in the School Aid Fund K-12 schools into higher education for almost a decade – and Governor Gretchen Whitmer says it’s time to stop. But she's facing some pushback from Republican lawmakers.

State Rep. Shane Hernandez (R-Port Huron) chairs the House Appropriations Committee. He said he’s willing to consider the move – but it would take time and likely have to be phased in.

frankieleon / flickr

Michigan’s cash bail system needs an overhaul. That’s the message of bipartisan legislation introduced in the state House and Senate.

Representative Tommy Brann (R-Wyoming) wants to get rid of the requirement that parents who owe back child support pay bail to get out jail before they see a judge.

 

“Being in jail they cannot pay the child support,” Brann said. “So it’s just a vicious circle for them so I just want to give them a chance to get out fast, get back to work so they can still pay their child support, try to get caught up on this.”

Paul Ajegba (right) talks with people before Tuesday's Senate Advice and Consent committee meeting.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Top appointees in Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration are officially in their jobs to stay. The time limit for the state Senate to block many appointees by Whitmer has passed.

The state Senate has 60 days to oppose an appointment by Whitmer. The oversight process has not been used much in the recent past with a Republican in the governor’s seat and a Republican-controlled Legislature. But now with a Democrat in the governor’s office, Republicans are using the oversight powers more.

map of Line 5
Enbridge

A Court of Claims judge ruled the law that created the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority is valid. The authority will oversee a controversial tunnel to house a new section of the aging Line 5 pipeline.

Line 5 carries crude oil and natural gas liquids under the Straits of Mackinac.

At the center of the dispute is a part of the law that says the members of the authority are to serve six-year terms. 

Michigan State Capitol.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

From changing the state’s freedom of information laws to attempts to stop observing daylight-saving time – lawmakers in Lansing are trying again on issues that didn’t pass during previous sessions.

Multiple bills have already been introduced since January that revisit old issues. In some cases, they’re bills that have been introduced multiple times in the past, but never gotten anywhere.

Michigan State Capitol.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Democratic lawmakers are trying to once again make the state’s minimum wage $12 an hour by 2022.

Last year, there was a ballot measure to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour. The Legislature passed the measure without it going to the voters, and then quickly made major changes. Now, the minimum wage won’t get to $12 an hour until 2030.

Gas pump
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer made fixing the state’s roads a cornerstone of her 2018 campaign. Now, she’s revealed exactly how she wants to pay for that campaign promise.

Whitmer for Governor

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s budget proposal is slated to include an increase in spending for kindergarten through 12th grade education.

Whitmer will present the plan as part of her budget proposal Tuesday. She wants to put more money toward students with additional educational needs. That includes special education, low-income, and career and technical education students.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It started last October.

More than 70 police officers, special agents and government officials executed search warrants on each of the seven Catholic dioceses in Michigan simultaneously. They loaded vehicles with boxes and filing cabinets – everything they could find related to potential sexual abuse by priests who have worked in Michigan from 1950 until now.

Attorney General Dana Nessel says Michigan is the first state to execute a search warrant on the Church in this way.

Saugatuck Dunes
Wikimedia / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is trying again to restructure the state Department of Environmental Quality. Whitmer signed a second executive order on Thursday to restructure the DEQ after the Legislature voted to overturn the initial order last week.

Michigan Supreme Court
Subterranean / Wikimedia Commons

State lawmakers want to go to the Michigan Supreme Court to find out if something they did in their last session is legal.

Attorney General Dana Nessel
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Attorney General Dana Nessel is scheduled to give her first public briefing on three major state cases this week. Nessel said she’ll be joined by Michigan State Police Colonel Joe Gasper and Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud.

These are all cases that Nessel inherited from former Attorney General Bill Schuette, and Nessel has been tight lipped about her plans for these cases.

capitol building
Wikimedia Commons

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s plan to restructure the state Department of Environmental Quality is dead. The Senate voted to overturn the order on Thursday. That was the final vote the Republican-led Legislature needed to eliminate Whitmer’s order.

Michigan House of Representatives
MittenStatePhotog / Flickr

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is scheduled to give her first State of the State address Tuesday. Whitmer will be the first Democrat to give the speech in 9 years. She succeeded term limited Republican Rick Snyder.

Charles Ballard is an economist at Michigan State University. He says Whitmer is giving a speech when the economy is doing better than a decade ago, but it’s a “mixed picture.”

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