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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

The Michigan Supreme Court opens its 2012 session this week.
Subterranean / Flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a challenge to a proposed November ballot initiative to change who draws congressional and legislative districts every decade.

"Vote here" sign
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Business-backed organizations say two initiatives waiting for approval from the Board of State Canvassers should not be on the November ballot. One would raise the state’s minimum wage. The other would require earned sick time for employees.

The challenges, in part, involve whether the petitions have enough valid signatures to be on the November ballot.

Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments this week about whether a redistricting measure can go on the November ballot. It’s the last stop for the contentious proposal.

A Republican and business-backed group called Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution disputed the proposal. They said the measure is a complete overhaul of the Constitution.

Dave Doyle is a spokesperson for the group.

“It creates in a sense, a fourth branch of government. So that’s a wholesale rewrite of the Constitution,” he says.

Beatriz Pérez Moya / Unsplash

The state Attorney General wants a judge to review every document Michigan State University says is protected by attorney-client privilege. This is part of an ongoing investigation by a special prosecutor into the university.

The investigation involves how Michigan State University handled former MSU sports doctor, Larry Nassar. Nassar will spend decades in prison for sexually assaulting his patients.

The university put together a so-called “privilege log” that lists every document it says is protected by attorney-client privilege. 

Stephen Radford / Unsplash

The ACLU of Michigan wants a federal judge to let its discrimination lawsuit against the state move forward.

The ACLU says a policy that lets faith-based child placement agencies under contract with the state withhold services for religious reasons is unconstitutional. Multiple same sex couples say they were turned away when they tried to adopt from these organizations that receive state money.

The state says there are other agencies for same-sex couples to use.

Leslie Cooper is with the ACLU of Michigan. She says the state’s argument doesn’t hold up.

graffiti saying "vote"
Flickr user H2Woah! / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

For the first time in Michigan history, Libertarian candidates for governor will be on the August primary ballot. That’s because the party got enough Michigan votes in the 2016 election to put the party on the primary ballot.

Libertarian Party of West Michigan Vice Chair, Jamie Lewis, said getting the party on the primary ballot helps people know early on that they have options besides Republicans and Democrats.

Screenshot / Off the Record / WKAR-TV

Two Republican candidates running for the U.S. Senate squared off on Friday. During a debate on WKAR-TV’s Off the Record, Sandy Pensler and John James both said they were the best choice to take on incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow, though the candidates mostly focused on each other – not Stabenow – during the debate.

Pensler and James sharply disagreed on the issue of capital punishment. Pensler said he’s okay with the death penalty in extreme cases. But James said it disproportionately affects the poor.

Vote Here sign
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for a lawsuit about a ballot proposal to change how Michigan draws political districts.

Voters Not Politicians is the group behind the measure, which would put a 13-member commission in charge of redistricting, instead of the state Legislature. It says the proposal meets all the requirements of a voter-initiated constitutional amendment. But a group opposed to the measure, Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution, disagrees. It says the proposal goes beyond what’s allowed for this type of ballot proposal.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
Courtesy of Governor Snyder's office

Michigan has about 150 new laws. Governor Rick Snyder finished going through a pile of bills that were sent to him before the Legislature went on its summer break.

The new laws range from getting rid of out-of-date laws to license plates. And several bills involve how to drive. Starting in September, drivers will have to give bicyclists at least three feet of space while passing.

“This is really important to protect bicyclists and other vulnerable roadway users,” said Snyder spokeswoman, Tanya Baker.

A group trying to get a redistricting measure on the November ballot says arguments against the measure by the state Attorney General are redundant.

Schuette submitted a brief to the Michigan Supreme Court – it’s currently deciding if it will look at a court case filed by a group that wants to keep the proposal off the ballot. This comes after a 3-0 decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals that ordered the state’s election committee to send the proposal to the ballot.

Fancycrave / Unsplash

Michigan will put $100 million toward skilled trades training and career exploration. Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation into law Tuesday.

State Senator Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, is a bill sponsor. He said the state has a shortage of people in the skilled trades workforce. That’s because for a long time there was an emphasis on getting a college degree.

“Not everybody is ganna be a four-year degree student and not everybody can work with their hands and this is for the folks that wanna work with their hands also,” Hansen said.

pills
DenisenFamily / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Democrats in the state House want to get rid of a law they say protects drug companies that knowingly make or sell harmful drugs.

They introduced bills that would repeal a law that gives drug companies immunity from lawsuits. That law grants immunity over drugs that have been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Bill sponsor, Representative Brian Elder, D-Bay City, said if a drug is later recalled or showed to be harmful, the current law means people can’t sue – and that is not OK.

Teal pinwheels adorn the lawn outside the Hannah Administration Building where the Board of Trustees meeting took place. Teal is the color of sexual assault survivors.
Cheyna Roth

Michigan State University will issue a bond to pay for a $500 million legal settlement. The school’s Board of Trustees voted in favor of the move Friday at a meeting.

Engler kicked off the meeting by reiterating his apology for emails that were made public last week. In them, Engler tells an aide that a Larry Nassar survivor might be getting a “kickback” by trial lawyers. Nassar is the former Michigan State University spokesperson who sexually assaulted his patients for years.

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

Gov. Rick Snyder signed the state’s general fund spending plan for fiscal year 2019 Thursday, and it includes a provision he says his administration won’t enforce.

That measure would cut funding to Planned Parenthood. It requires county health departments to favor family planning clinics that don’t offer abortions. 

Snyder said that provision is unconstitutional because there is a separate law that says how family planning money is distributed. It's already illegal in Michigan for public money to be directly used for abortions.

https://www.michiganstateuniversityonline.com/about/michigan-state/

Tensions could be high at Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting at Michigan State University.

Protestors plan to show up and continue their call for increased transparenc, and for Interim President John Engler’s resignation. These calls come amid repeated blowback in how the university has handled the fallout from Larry Nassar. Nassar is the former MSU sports doctor who sexually assaulted his patients for years.

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

Michigan’s prisons are in crisis. The state cannot find enough corrections officers to staff them. Older officers are retiring, others are quitting, and there are hundreds of officer positions waiting to be filled.

For corrections officerss like Lorraine Emery, that shortage means an exhausting, dangerous job is getting even tougher.

Emery has been a corrections officer for about 17 years. She’s currently at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility, in Ionia. When she gets home from her eight-hour shift, the first thing she does is change her clothes.

Gavel
Joe Gratz / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A Detroit judge will hear arguments today about alleged abuses by federal immigration agents.

The ACLU of Michigan filed a motion last week. It says agents are threatening and harassing detainees.

The ACLU represents several hundred Iraqi immigrants who face deportation orders for crimes – many of which were committed years ago and for which sentences were already served.

The motion says detainees are told if they don’t sign a statement saying they want to return to Iraq, they’ll be criminally prosecuted and detained indefinitely.

John Engler at the final MSU Board of Trustees meeting of the 2017/18 school year.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Members of Michigan State University’s governing board are calling for interim president John Engler to resign.

That’s after the Chronicle of Higher Education published an email between Engler and aides in which he said Nassar survivor Rachel Denhollander was likely receiving a “kickback” from lawyers.

Trustees Brian Mosallam and Dianne Byrum released statements saying Engler needs to go.

Flickr http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Environmental groups say a bill headed for Governor Rick Snyder’s desk could increase the amount of invasive species in the Great Lakes.

The bill involves ballast water. That’s water large ships collect to help stabilize their vessel. The ships gather the water in one region, taking plant and animal species with them, and then when the ship doesn’t need the water, it dumps it someplace else. The bill loosens the treatment regulations on that water before it’s dumped into the Great Lakes.

Judge's gavel with books on a desk
Pixabay.com

A proposal to change the way the state draws its political district lines must go on the November ballot. The Michigan Court of Appeals denied a request to keep a measure by the group Voters Not Politicians off the ballot.

The opposition group, Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution, said the redistricting proposal was essentially a redrafting of the state Constitution. 

Emergency room hospital
Pixabay.com / http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

A work requirement for some people on Medicaid in Michigan is on the verge of becoming law. The Senate sent the bill to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk today, and despite earlier reluctance he's now signaling his support for the plan.

skeeze / pixabay

After multiple attempts, Michigan’s prevailing wage law is now eliminated. The Legislature passed a voter-initiated measure today to get rid of the law. It requires state construction contracts to pay union-scale wages.

The Republican-controlled Legislature has tried in the past to get rid of the law. But the efforts didn’t go anywhere because they knew Governor Rick Snyder would likely veto any repeal bill. Snyder cannot veto a voter-initiated law.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-Grand Haven, says this is a win for taxpayers.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Whether Michigan should legalize marijuana for recreational use will be decided by the voters. The state Legislature let today’s deadline for the to act on the initiative lapse. It would legalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol.

The state House and Senate would both have had to pass the initiative. The leader of the Senate Republicans said its chamber had enough votes to pass the measure. But the House was not on board.

William Strampel
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Former Michigan State University dean William Strampel will go to trial for sexual misconduct at Michigan State University. Strampel was in court for a probable cause hearing Tuesday. 

Larry Nassar
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers expect to hold a key vote on the remaining bills in response to Larry Nassar this week. Nassar is the former Michigan State University sports doctor in prison for sexually assaulting his patients.

money
Mathieu Turle / unsplash

State lawmakers can now vote to repeal Michigan's prevailing wage law. Prevailing wage requires the state pay union-scale wages on its contracts.

The Board of State Canvassers certified a ballot initiative today. It gives the Legislature a chance to pass the measure instead of letting the voters decide.

Supporters of prevailing wage say it helps people who work in the skilled trades.

But opponents of the law have been trying to get rid of it for years. They say it inflates the cost of government projects.

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

Michigan’s top prosecutor is on board with proposed changes to how the state parole board determines if an inmate can be released from prison.

The bill gives the parole board a specific list of objective reasons for denying an inmate parole – like the inmate shows a pattern of ongoing behavior that shows the inmate would be a substantial risk to public safety. Another reason is if the inmate fails to complete a program ordered by the prison system.

The goal is to parole inmates who can safely re-enter society and reduce the prison population.

Jaclyn Moy / Unsplash

State lawmakers want to put more money into school safety. A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Tuesday, similar bills were introduced recently in the state House. The bills are backed by a coalition of law enforcement and education groups.

If the bills pass, how much money would be put toward things like school resource officers, more counselors in schools and building improvements would be worked out during the budget process if the bills pass. But members of the coalition say, in an ideal world, the state would put $120 million toward school safety.

Dog sticking its head out the window of a car
Andrew Pons / Unsplash

As temperatures rise, lawmakers in Lansing want to make sure people aren’t leaving their animals in their cars.

Legislation passed a state Senate committee Thursday. It would make it a crime to leave your animal in the car in harmful conditions.

That includes, but is not limited to, “heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability or death of the animal.”

The HIV virus
typographyimages / Pixabay

Medical experts in Michigan say reducing the stigma of HIV is key to stopping the spread of the disease.

A package of bills in the state Legislature would update the state’s laws. That would include changing the criminal penalty for someone who doesn’t disclose they have HIV to a sexual partner. Right now it’s a felony to not disclose – even if the partner doesn’t get HIV. The bill would make it a misdemeanor and require the partner actually get HIV.

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