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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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.

a 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 /

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.”

Flickr user Still Burning / Flickr Creative Commons

The state will soon need more money to pay for potential awards to those who were wrongfully convicted.

A state law says people who meet certain criteria can receive $50,000 for every year they spent incarcerated.

There are two people who will likely receive awards from the fund soon – and that would wipe out almost all the money currently set aside.

Now, the state attorney general’s office wants to work with the Legislature to make sure there’s enough money allocated when it passes the next budget.

Looking up into the rotunda of the Michigan Capitol.
user cedarbenddrive/Flickr /

Several members of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s cabinet are likely to get to keep their jobs. The state Senate began its Advice and Consent hearings this week for several directors appointed by Whitmer. There are more hearings to come.

The committee heard from appointees to the Department of Transportation, Michigan State Police, children’s ombudsman, and state treasurer.

capitol building
Wikimedia Commons

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order to restructure the Department of Environmental Quality could be overturned before any changes are made.

Some Republicans don’t like that Whitmer’s executive order gets rid of several environmental oversight panels that were put in place by state law last year. The state House passed a measure to undo the order Wednesday, before a Senate committee reviewed the order Thursday.

Sleeping Bear Dunes
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is restructuring the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.

Whitmer signed several measures Monday, including one that creates new offices in what will become the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. The restructuring creates offices of public advocates for environmental justice and clean water, and it creates an interagency environmental justice response team.

Environmental groups called this a great first step.

Picture of the Lansing capitol building
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says her latest executive directive will improve transparency in state government.

Whitmer’s 11th executive directive is aimed at getting information to reporters and citizens faster. It encourages state departments to not request extensions beyond the state deadlines for Freedom of Information Act requests, and it encourages the departments to get information out before those deadlines. The directive also encourages the use of live streaming for public meetings.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The cold snap is expected to be over by Friday. But once the cold weather eases up, there will be new issues for the state to handle.

The dramatic freeze and upcoming rise in temperatures is bad for roads, and the Michigan Department of Transportation is getting ready.

Paul Ajegba is the director of the department. He says MDOT has had about 1,200 trucks on the road putting salt and sand out. But they also expect to have to patch roads once there’s a thaw.

State government stays closed amid cold snap

Jan 30, 2019
michigan state capitol building
Wikimedia Commons

The State House and Senate have cancelled their Thursday session day, making Tuesday the only day they’ve met this week. This is due to the ongoing cold snap across the state. Lawmakers are expected to return for session on Tuesday, February 5.

Whitmer for Governor

UPDATED at 7:08 am on 1/30/19

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s first State of the State address will happen a week later than originally scheduled.

Whitmer was scheduled to deliver the speech on Tuesday, February 5th. But Speaker of the U-S House Nancy Pelosi announced she would invite President Donald Trump to deliver his State of the Union address on the same day.

Whitmer now plans to give her State of the State address to the Legislature in the Michigan House Chamber on Tuesday, February 12th.

Man using snowblower
Jill Wellington / Pixabay

Michigan is in the middle of a severe cold front with sub-zero temperatures forecasted for the next few days. As a result, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has declared a state of emergency.

Dale George is with the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security division. He says the emergency declaration will let the state provide resources to cities and towns dealing with the cold.

Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr -

The Senate will start the oversight process for some of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s state department appointees.

The state Senate has 60 days to object to certain Whitmer appointees, otherwise the appointee is automatically confirmed.

Joe Gratz / Flickr -

The Michigan Supreme Court held its first oral argument sessions last week and agreed to take more cases.

The court heard oral arguments in almost a dozen cases over two days. In a lawsuit against a state agency, Department of Corrections employees say their jobs were reclassified to a lower pay grade even though they were performing the same tasks.

child in doorway
Caro / Flickr -

A settlement may be coming in a lawsuit involving some Michigan adoption agencies’ ability to refuse services to same-sex couples.

The ACLU of Michigan and some same-sex couples are suing the state over its contracts with faith-based agencies that offer adoption and foster services. Those agencies can deny services to same-sex couples for religious reasons.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Some lawmakers in Lansing want to finish what they started last year when it comes to police taking property.

A state Senate committee approved Senate Bill 2 Thursday, which changes the state’s civil asset forfeiture law. The bill would still allow law enforcement to take property possibly involved in a crime, but they wouldn’t be allowed to permanently keep it until there’s a criminal conviction or the person gives up their ownership. This applies if the value of the property or money is less than $50,000.  

Sen. Jim Ananich, the next Minority Leader in Michigan's Senate.
Jake Neher / MPRN

Democrats in the state Senate want to change a controversial law that passed during last year’s lame duck session.

The bill was signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder in late December. It changes the requirements for collecting signatures to get a measure on the ballot. Democrats say it makes the process too difficult.

Updated at 7:23 p.m. ET

Students and faculty at Michigan State University have called for the resignation or firing of interim President John Engler almost from the day he was appointed. This week, they got their wish.

On Wednesday evening, MSU Board of Trustees member Dianne Byrum confirmed she had received a letter of resignation from Engler and that letter would be acted upon at the trustee meeting scheduled for Thursday morning.

Michigan State Capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Leaders of the state Legislature and Governor Gretchen Whitmer will hold their first “quadrant meeting” Wednesday.

Whitmer announced when she won the November election that she would like to hold regular meetings with the Speaker of the House, House Democratic Leader, Senate Majority Leader and Senate Democratic Leader. All members agreed.

The idea is to talk about issues and find ways to come to an agreement before bills hit Whitmer’s desk.

Car accident
Daniel X. O'Neil/Flickr /

Republican lawmakers in the state House and Senate say lowering the cost of auto insurance across the state is a top priority for the 100th Legislature.

How to change Michigan’s auto no-fault insurance law is an issue lawmakers have been trying to crack for years.

In the House, Representative Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) will chair a special committee devoted to the issue. He said this will give lawmakers a broad, collaborative way of tackling the problem.

Michigan Attorney General's Office

There’s a new attorney in charge of the criminal cases surrounding the Flint water crisis. Fadwa Hammoud was just appointed as Michigan’s new Solicitor General.   

Within hours of that announcement, the Attorney General’s office said Hammoud would also be taking on the role of lead attorney in the Flint water crisis criminal cases.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan can expect to see some economic growth over the next few years – but for the most part, the state’s economy is expected to stay flat.

State money experts gathered with economists at the state’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference on Friday to figure out how much money will be in Michigan’s purse for the next budget.

The amount of money in the state’s general fund budget is expected to grow, but not by a lot. 

Whitmer for Governor

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive directive she says will help secure equal pay for equal work among state employees.

The directive prohibits state agencies and departments from asking about a potential employee's current or previous salaries until they give the applicant a conditional offer of employment that includes proposed compensation.

Judy Welch is the executive director for the West Michigan branch of Michigan Women Forward. She says this could help women who have historically been paid less.

The Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio file photo

The Michigan Legislature will gavel in for its 100th session this week. Lawmakers say they have one multi-billion dollar issue to tackle first.

At the end of the first week of the session, economists and numbers wonks will gather at the Capitol to tell lawmakers how big the budget should be this year.

The layout for how Michigan will spend its money for the upcoming year will be one of the first big hurdles the new Legislature and governor have to work on.