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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.

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MORGUEFILE

A portion of the state Senate budget is getting pushback from the Michigan Crime Victims Services Commission.

The Senate voted to move crime victim services out of the Department of Health and Human Services – and into the Attorney General’s Office.

The budget still has a few steps to go through before it’s finalized. So the commission drafted and unanimously passed a resolution urging lawmakers to reject an effort to move the state’s crime victim services, funding and programs into the Attorney General’s Office.

The Mulholland brothers ran an $18 million Ponzi scheme, the AG says
Flickr user Pictures of Money / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Some state officials might be getting a raise for the first time in years. That’s if the legislature adopts recommendations made by the State Officers Compensation Commission Friday.

The commission recommends a ten percent pay increase for state Supreme Court Justices. Their salaries have been frozen for over a decade. It also recommends the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and secretary of state go back to their salaries from before 2010, when they got a pay cut.

The Michigan state capitol building
Thetoad / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Controversial legislation on state regulatory rules is making its way through the Legislature.

The House approved a bill Thursday to prevent the state from being tougher on things like environmental and workplace safety than the federal government.

Proponents of the legislation, say less regulation is the way to go and a federal standard is enough regulation for the state.

Speaker of the House Tom Leonard supported similar legislation that failed in the Senate last year, and again voted in favor.

Woman's silhouette
Creative Commons

State lawmakers are quickly pushing through legislation to make female genital mutilation a state crime. About two weeks ago a Senate committee passed legislation that would make performing female genital mutilation a 15-year felony.

The legislation was introduced shortly after two Detroit area doctors were federally charged with conspiring to commit female genital mutilation on two young girls from Minnesota.

Bill sponsor, Republican Senator Margaret O’Brien, said the five-year federal penalty isn’t enough.

Handguns.
user Ben Re / Flickr

Gun rights are up for debate in the state Legislature, again.

A set of bills to get rid of the requirement to carry a permit in order to carry a concealed pistol was up in front of a House committee Tuesday.

Advocates say the legislation is long overdue and the legislation wouldn’t take away the regulations on who can carry a firearm.

But opponents say it erodes gun safety.

Looking up into the rotunda of the Michigan Capitol.
user cedarbenddrive/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A battle is heating up in Lansing over the state’s corrections budget.

Republican Senator John Proos’ subcommittee on corrections passed a budget that cuts the Department of Corrections' budget by about $40 million. Proos said because the prison population is down, continuing to spend about the same amount each year means they are spending too much per prisoner.

Wikimedia Commons

Michigan’s attempts to privatize prison food services is still running into problems. The legislature approved outsourcing prison food service in 2012 to cut costs. But it canceled its first contract with Aramark in 2015, after numerous problems.

 

Reports obtained by the liberal watchdog group Progress Michigan show the prisons are still having problems with spoiled food and outside staff.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Big business investors are waiting on Governor Rick Snyder to give them a break. A tax break that is, to build on blighted land.

Investors who buy blighted property would get new tax incentives, under a set of bills on their way to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk.

Last year, these so-called brownfield bills were nicknamed after Dan Gilbert, the prominent Detroit developer. That’s because opponents call them a gift to wealthy corporations at the expense of taxpayers.

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

The state is stepping in to help struggling schools instead of closing them.

 

Earlier this year 38 schools were marked for potential closure. Those were schools that consistently ranked in the bottom five percent of all public schools in the state.

 

RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel holding a microphone
www.migop.org

Republican National Committee chair Ronna Romney McDaniel was in Lansing Friday. Her visit comes on the heels of a controversial health care vote.

Democrats fought the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. They say the Republican plan that would replace it has worse coverage and would cost millions their healthcare coverage. 

Romney McDaniel says the new plan will save American lives.

Pete / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Law enforcement and pharmacists are working together to curb methamphetamine production in the state.

It’s called the “Anti-Smurfing Campaign.”

Smurfing is the practice of buying cold and allergy medicine – like  Sudafed – that contain meth ingredients, for meth cooks.

Some of Michigan’s top law enforcement members met Thursday to announce the launch. It’s a partnership with pharmacies to display posters discouraging the practice.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Democrats in Lansing have renewed their mission for a Voter Bill of Rights.

Democrats in the state House attempted to pass a resolution to amend the Michigan Constitution last year. This time, State Representative Jon Hoadley is spearheading the effort.

Hoadley said a Voter Bill of Rights would empower people and let them know their voices are heard.

“The entire process from registering to vote in Michigan to dropping your ballot in the ballot box hasn’t improved in 20 years while other states, Red and Blue, have left us in the dust,” he said.

user Thomas Anderson / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A state Senate committee holds a hearing Tuesday on bills to outlaw female genital mutilation in Michigan.

It’s already a federal crime with a penalty of up to five years in prison. The bill’s sponsors say that’s not tough enough.

But a lot of experts say a tougher law may not be enough to deter an entrenched cultural and religious practice.

Republican Senator Margaret O’Brien says she was surprised to learn that Michigan didn’t already ban the practice of female genital mutilation.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Controversial legislation to scrap unlimited, lifetime medical coverage for car crash victims is back up for consideration in Lansing.

Proponents of the current system say the law makes sure victims are taken care of. But Republicans have been trying for decades to scale back the state’s unlimited medical coverage for people injured in car crashes.  

The proposed legislation would let consumers pick their levels of coverage.

Speaker of the House Tom Leonard says auto no-fault overhaul is one of his party’s biggest priorities.

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.

The South Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority (SOCRRA) and Madison Heights meet in court May 17.
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.

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