Cheyna Roth | Michigan Radio
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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

winter school bus
Pixabay

Michigan students are a signature away from getting four snow days forgiven after a brutal winter left some schools closed for weeks. The state Senate sent the bill to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s desk Thursday.

This comes after a dust-up between Republicans and Democrats on details of the bill. Earlier this week, Democrats prevented the bill from getting immediate effect – which would have effectively killed the bill.

Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A controversial provision in a budget bill (SB 135) would penalize communities with sanctuary city policies. A state Senate committee passed its version of the Michigan Department of Corrections budget on Wednesday.

The budget includes a provision that would penalize communities with policies that prevent law enforcement from cooperating with federal officials on immigration issues. They would lose a jail reimbursement.

U.S. Supreme Court
Pixabay

Last week, a federal court ruled that Michigan's Republican lawmakers had unconstitutionally drawn district lines. Now, those lawmakers have appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In its decision, the U.S. District Court said Republicans had violated the First and Fourth Amendments by unconstitutionally drawing district lines to favor their party. The Court ordered the Legislature and governor to work together to redraw at least 34 districts for the 2020 election.

Snowshoeing in northern Michigan
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Michigan students may not get any additional snow days forgiven this year.

The state Senate unanimously passed a bill on Tuesday that would have forgiven four state declared emergency snow days. But after that vote, several Democrats voted to not give the bill immediate effect. It’s a procedural move which renders the bill useless because it would not take effect until well after the school year has ended.

Picture of the Lansing capitol building
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Action on the state’s budget is expected to pick up this week.

The state Senate Appropriations committee will consider and possibly vote on multiple budgets – including for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Those budgets moving through the Senate include large cuts to what Governor Gretchen Whitmer recommended in her proposed budget. 

Amber McCann is a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey.

“It was strictly to put those discretionary dollars that we have at our disposal toward things, for instance, like accelerating road funding,” says McCann.

Money
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Some members of law enforcement hope Governor Gretchen Whitmer vetoes legislation headed for her desk.

The Legislature passed bills to change the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws on Thursday. The bills would require a criminal conviction before law enforcement can keep a person’s property worth less than $50,000. Law enforcement only needs probable cause in order to take it.

Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

More money could be added to the state’s wrongful conviction fund. Lawmakers sent a bill to add $10 million to the fund to the governor’s desk on Thursday.

The money set aside for people who were wrongfully convicted is almost gone.

State Representative Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) is a bill sponsor.

Michigan's 14th congressional district
Public Domain

The US District Court has ruled that Michigan's congressional and legislative maps are unconstitutionally gerrymandered, ordering the state Legislature to redraw at least 34 districts for the 2020 election.


Michigan State Capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Legislature held key votes on Wednesday on bills that would make various changes to the state’s criminal justice system.

The state Senate passed a series of bills that some lawmakers say will make the criminal justice system fairer for young people. The so-called “Raise the Age” legislation would automatically treat 17-year-olds as juveniles for certain crimes. Right now, they’re automatically tried as adults.

“We want to make sure our kids are not hindered because they’ve made poor decisions in their youth,” said bill sponsor Senator Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit).

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

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.

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