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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

Gun in holster on hip
Teknorat / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM / cropped from original

Wednesday was the annual Second Amendment March in Lansing. Gun enthusiasts took to the Capitol for speeches and mass open-carrying of firearms.

According to the march’s website, they met for a, “peaceful gathering to demonstrate the political strength of Michigan’s legal gun owners and Second Amendment advocates.”

Dean Greenblatt is an attorney in Bloomfield Township. He represents Michigan Open Carry in several pending court cases.

The sinkhole in Macomb County.
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Fraser, Michigan will finally get funding for a sinkhole that opened up in a residential neighborhood last Christmas.

Lawmakers have been at odds over whether to give Macomb County a grant or a loan.

Now the Michigan Department of Transportation has agreed to send the money to make the necessary repairs.

“We are very happy for Macomb County that everybody came together and came to a resolution on this,” said State Rep. Jeff Yaroch, R-Richmond. “It was very reasonable for the state to help in this, which is a state of emergency.”

A hundred dollar bill cut in half with a knife on a cutting board.
Frugal / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan is the 16th most expensive state when it comes to how much in profits businesses put toward taxes.

That’s according to an annual study released Monday. This is a drop from last year’s ranking of 12th.

Patrick Anderson is the CEO of Anderson Economic Group, which releases the study every year. He said Michigan has dropped a few spots in the rankings. But he said it still has lower business taxes than the national average.

United States Department of Education / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Past and present public policies have a major impact on the disparities in child well-being in Michigan. That’s according to a report released Tuesday by the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Many schools in Michigan have grappled with whether they should dump Native American mascots and nicknames.

Plenty of things can stand in the way: history, tradition, emotion. But one Michigan tribe wants to make sure money isn’t the barrier to change.

Belding has been the Redskins since the 1940s. The entry of the school and the field boast giant stones engraved with Belding Redskins and an image of a Native American chief in a headdress.

LAW
user southerfried / morguefile

The Michigan Supreme Court convened in Lansing this week.

Whether or not a student can sue a religious school under the Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act was one question before the Court Thursday.

Bettina Winkler was a student at Notre Dame Marist Academy middle school. She was denied admission to the affiliated high school. Winkler says it’s because she has a learning disability.

Nicholas Roumel is Winkler’s attorney. He said Winkler was the only middle school student that wasn’t accepted to the high school.

person shaking prescription pills from bottle into hand
flickr user frankileon / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan is updating what state officials call a useful tool for fighting the opioid epidemic.

The problematic state drug monitoring program has gotten a significant facelift. The system is used primarily by law enforcement and doctors to flag potential prescription drug abuse and better treat patients. 

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley chaired the task force that recommended the system update. He said tracking medications is an important tool for doctors, especially when it comes to potential opioid abuse by a patient.

Bert Johnson

A raid on State Senator Bert Johnson’s home and Lansing office has culminated in a federal indictment.

A grand jury returned charges of theft and conspiracy against the Detroit-area senator.

Acting United States Attorney Daniel Lemisch said in a press release, “Theft of taxpayer’s money by elected public officials, as these charges allege, is disheartening and will not be tolerated.”

A person writing a check
RikkisRefuge Other / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The charities you donate to may not be getting all of the money you send to them.

A new report shows that many professional fundraisers – organizations used by charities to solicit on their behalf – keep a large portion of the donations you give.

The Michigan Attorney General’s fifth annual Professional Fundraising Charitable Solicitation Report shows that an average of 39% of total donations to fundraisers actually reached their designated charity. The other 61% went to the professional fundraisers.

a gavel
User: steakpinball / flickr

Michigan’s method for charging defendants who go through the legal system has been officially declared constitutional by the state Court of Appeals. The issue has been argued for years, but this is the first published opinion by the court.  

Defense attorneys argue the court costs are unfair, especially for poor defendants.

bottom of chalkboard, with an eraser and chalk sitting on the ledge
user alkruse24 / Flickr

A former Livingston County principal is getting her day in court.

The Michigan Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Hartland school district to dismiss the case, so now the whistleblower suit is going to trial.

Tracy Sahouri says the school wrongly demoted her from principal to teacher because of several things she reported that were protected under the whistleblower act. Including, that the school asked her to improperly administer the MEAP test.

Out of the 38 under-performing schools that could be closed in Michigan, 25 of them are located in Metro Detroit.
Motown31 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Three school districts in the state are getting some extra help.

The state has approved grants totaling three million dollars. The money is for consolidating and merging schools and resources in the districts.

“The consolidation grants support strategic consolidation of districts where it makes sense,” said Michigan Department of Education spokesperson Bill DiSessa. “Streamlining their services and operations in other cases, the grants help defray the costs and increase efficiencies in these districts.

Creative Commons

Members of law enforcement are concerned about a bill waiting for a vote in a state House committee.

The bill would take away the penalty for drivers who refuses a roadside breathalyzer test.

Bill sponsor, Republican Representative Peter Lucido says the portable breath test, or PBT, is unreliable and shouldn’t be used.

Members of different branches of law enforcement disagree.

Fraser home falling into the sinkhole.
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

The state House and Senate are playing volleyball with money to fix a sinkhole in Macomb County.

A House bill originally gave the city a three million dollar grant. It also approved millions of dollars for Flint.

The Senate changed Fraser’s $3 million grant to a $5 million dollar loan.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) said they did this in part to encourage other communities to maintain their infrastructure – instead of waiting for a crisis to get a handout from the state. 

cash
Public Domain

Another tax incentive for Michigan businesses passed the state Senate Wednesday and is on its way to the House.

Tax cuts, be they for businesses or individuals, have been a hot topic in Lansing all session. The latest would let big businesses keep a portion of their employees’ income tax. So, some of the tax you would normally pay to the government would instead go to your employer.

Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, is a bill sponsor. He says this would make Michigan more competitive with other states.

Cheyna Roth / MPRN

Michigan State University football coach Mark Dantonio is breaking his silence over controversy plaguing his team.

Dantonio held a press conference Tuesday. It was his first time speaking publicly, aside from an earlier, written, press release, since early February.

Three unidentified players were suspended in early February after a sexual assault investigation came to light. The director of college advancement and performance, Curtis Blackwell, has also been suspended, though Dantonio declined to explain why.

Jerome Vaughn / WDET

A state senator is involved in a joint investigation with the FBI and Michigan State Police.

Both departments executed search warrants on the Lansing office and Highland Park home of Democratic Senator Bert Johnson Monday.

Investigators did not give any details about the nature of the investigation. An unidentified man who was with the team of investigators leaving the Senate office building said, “We had investigative activity here in the Senate, but that’s all I’m going to say.”

Lead pipes
Mitch Barrie / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

State House and Senate leaders are uneasy about the governor’s proposed changes to the state Lead and Copper Rule.

Governor Rick Snyder is trying to make the state’s regulations stricter than the federal requirements. He wants to lower the safe limit from 15 parts per billion to 10.

Snyder previously called the federal Lead and Copper Rule, “dumb and dangerous.” Now Snyder spokesperson Ari Adler says the governor is working with the legislature to make sure Michigan’s form of the rule is safer than the federal rule.

a police squad car
Flickr user Scott Davidson/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Legislation meant to improve law enforcement hiring practices made it through the state Senate Thursday.

Right now human resource units in police departments are reluctant to tell other departments anything about a former officer besides their name and when they worked for them out of fear of litigation if the officer doesn’t get the job.

Senator Jones says the legislation is meant to prevent bad officers from hopping from department to department. Jones said, “99.9 percent of all officers are the finest people in the world. But once in a while you get a bad apple.”

State capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Hundreds of nurses marched from the Lansing Center to the state Capitol Wednesday. They want to urge the legislature to introduce a Safe Patient Care Act.

Nurses from around the state chanted, “What do we want? Safe staffing! When do we want it? Now!” on the steps of the Capitol.

Sarah Hodges is in nursing school and works as a nursing assistant. She says nurses love their patients and want to be able to give them the care they need.

bottom of chalkboard, with an eraser and chalk sitting on the ledge
user alkruse24 / Flickr

A controversial item in the current budget is the focus of a lawsuit filed today.

 

When the budget was approved last October, the state allocated $2.5 million to reimburse private schools for state requirements like fire drills, background checks, and keeping inhalers in the buildings. 

Government records revealed under the Freedom of Information Act.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The governor and legislature would be subject to public records requests, under bills approved by the state House today.

“When you exempt the governor and you exempt the state legislature from the Freedom of Information Act, it’s not true transparency,” said state Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, a bill sponsor. “So this is a victory for citizens of the state of Michigan and journalists alike to learn a little more about how their government works.”

Mark K. / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

It’s Sunshine Week – a time of year when issues of transparency and open government are put front and center.

 

Democrats in the state House and Senate celebrated the week Tuesday by announcing a package of bills they say will make Michigan government more transparent and accountable.

 

The red lines show where Enbridge's Line 5 crosses Lake Michigan.
screenshot from Enbridge report to the state

It was standing room only at a relatively obscure state board meeting today.

The Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board heard a presentation from the oil and gas company that owns Line 5 – an oil and gas pipeline that runs along the bottom of Lake Michigan near the Mackinac Bridge.

“This pipeline is in as good a condition as it was the day it was installed. Our corrosion prevention system is doing its job," Kurt Baraniecki, director for Integrity Programs for Enbridge, told the board. "Our monitoring efforts are effective.”

Government records revealed under the Freedom of Information Act.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A battle is brewing in the state legislature over government transparency for the governor and legislature.

 

A large package of Freedom of Information bills that passed a House committee Thursday will likely be halted in the state Senate. 

 

Shayan Sanyal / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Michigan is on its way toward sweeping changes in its criminal justice system. The state House passed a large package of legislation Wednesday. 

The bills would, among other things, provide more data collection on recidivism, allow reduction in probation time in some cases, and programming for youth rehabilitation.

 

bottom of chalkboard, with an eraser and chalk sitting on the ledge
user alkruse24 / Flickr

There are fewer school districts in severe financial peril, according to a quarterly report compiled by the Michigan Department of Education.

 

Last year, there were 41 school districts and charter schools with deficits. That number is down to 27 this year. And Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Whiston says that number could be down to 18 districts by June.

Former state representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat.
images from Courser/Gamrat offices

If you’re expelled or resign from your seat in the legislature, you shouldn’t get to run for the seat you vacated.

That’s the idea behind a bill making progress in Lansing.

The legislation – which failed to make it through last year’s session – was crafted in the wake of a sex and cover-up scandal.

Explaining the partial inspiration for the bill, sponsor Republican Aaron Miller said, “You learn from things that happen today what legislation needs to be changed for tomorrow.”

Cheyna Roth / MPRN

Supporters and critics of President Donald Trump held dueling rallies at the State Capitol today.

As part of the so-called “March 4 Trump” events taking place across Michigan, Trump fans gathered to hear speeches and show their support for the president.

President Trump has been in office for a little over a month and a half.  But the supporters who gathered on the lawn of the Capital want him to know they think he is already doing a good job.

Inside the Michigan Senate
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Plans to overhaul how Michigan deals with struggling schools will see continued discussion this week in a state Senate committee.

 

State lawmakers have been working for weeks to overhaul how Michigan deals with struggling schools. The committee is currently trying to find the best ways to judge student performance, and grade schools.

 

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