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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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More than half a million people voted absentee in this week's primary election
Lars Plougmann

Several ballot proposals for Michigan’s 2018 election cleared a hurdle today.

The Board of State Canvassers approved the form of proposals on earned sick time, marijuana legalization and redistricting.

That doesn’t mean the board guarantees the content of the ballots will hold up against lawsuits. But it makes sure the campaign won’t succumb to a challenge in front of the board on technical issues after they gather signatures.

Cheyna Roth / MPRN

The first hearings to compensate people who’ve been wrongfully convicted started today, but some left the courtroom unsatisfied.

 

The hearings come after a new law was signed at the end of last year. That law provides for wrongfully convicted people to be compensated $50,000 for each year they were in prison.

 

Dana Nessel, wearing blue, speaks into a microphone.
Cheyna Roth / MPRN

A civil rights attorney announced her run for state Attorney General today.

Dana Nessel was an attorney for a same sex couple whose case went on to be part of the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage.

More recently, the Democrat is part of a task force with the Wayne County prosecutor’s office to investigate hate crimes against the LGBT community.

Nessel is a former prosecuting attorney. She says she isn’t worried about only being viewed as the LGBT candidate.

voting booths
user eyspahn / Flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A grassroots group that wants to get an anti-gerrymandering proposal on the 2018 ballot is looking to make progress this week.

Voters Not Politicians is the non-partisan group in charge of the effort. It wants to change how the state draws its district lines.

The Board of State Canvassers will meet Thursday to approve or reject the form of the petition. It will look at things like font size and which portions of the constitution are referenced. This is meant to prevent lawsuits for improper format down the road.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A report by the Michigan Auditor General says patient care at the problem-plagued Grand Rapids Home for Veterans has improved.

A 2016 audit of the nursing home revealed falsified records, employees skipping room checks, and other issues.

Enbridge's Line 5 runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario.
Enbridge

State agencies have weighed in on the controversial Enbridge Line 5 pipeline.

There’s still time for people to comment on a report about potential alternatives to the Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Agency for Energy, Michigan Public Service Commission and Office of the Attorney General gave their thoughts over the weekend.

The line sends oil and liquid natural gas under the Straits of Mackinac.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan needs to improve its oversight when it comes to the Flint water crisis. That is a finding by the Michigan Auditor General released in a report Monday.

It says the state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) didn’t provide enough oversight of the food and water lead safety inspections.

“The work got done, but the paperwork, documentation, should have been better,” said Jennifer Holton of MDARD.

MDARD oversees the inspections performed by the Genesee County Health Department.

John M. Cropper / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Democratic lawmakers in Lansing say the Attorney General is doing too little, too late.

The Attorney General announced criminal charges against workers at the state-run Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. Schuette’s investigation of the veteran’s home started in May of 2016. This was after a scathing audit of the home revealed that workers falsified records, skipped room checks, and other issues.

But Representatives Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, and Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, said they sounded the alarm as early as 2013.

The "Pure Michigan" campaign highlights beautiful and memorable places and experiences in Michigan.
user PunkToad / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The multi-million dollar Pure Michigan campaign is getting an evaluation. The state auditor general started a review this week.

Representatives Steven Johnson, R-Wayland and Martin Howrylak, R-Troy, asked for the audit. Johnson said he wants to make sure the campaign is a good deal for taxpayers.

“I like the ads, too. I think they’re, you know, they’re nice to see on TV. They make me feel good about Michigan,” he said. “But it’s millions of dollars that we’re spending and that money doesn’t come from nowhere. That comes from the hardworking taxpayers of Michigan.”

A string of rainbow flags against a blue sky
Chomiji / flickr

LGBT activists say the state’s civil rights law is too vague when it comes to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

Now they’re calling on the Michigan Civil Rights Commission to clarify the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act lists attributes people can’t discriminate for – like race, religion and sex.

 

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Credit an Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline continues to face public scrutiny.

Several state officials heard public comment on Tuesday. It was the first of three such sessions planned around the state.

The Enbridge Line 5 pipeline carries crude oil and natural gas liquids under the Straits of Mackinac. Environmental groups say that could lead to disaster.

The feedback will be taken into consideration by independent contractors working on a final report about possible alternatives to the pipeline. A draft of the report was released several weeks ago.

inside the chambers of the Michigan lesilature
Michigan Municipal League

Governor Rick Snyder signed a large bill package last week that makes female genital mutilation a felony in Michigan, but he could see more bills on this issue headed to his desk. The additional bills deal with police training and parental rights.

Courtesy Patrick Colbeck

A state senator is entering the Republican race for governor.

Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, hopes to succeed term-limited Governor Rick Snyder. He will formally announce his campaign Saturday at noon, at the Yankee Air Museum near Ypsilanti.

Colbeck was a design engineer for Boeing before he became a senator in in 2011.

“I came in with a fresh perspective, a business perspective,” he said. “And with the simple perspective says, ‘What I say I’m gonna do on the campaign trail is exactly what I’m gonna do when I’m serving.’”

NIH IMAGE GALLERY / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

State lawmakers have formed a task force to look for ways to improve mental health treatment in Michigan.

It’s called the House C.A.R.E.S task force. C.A.R.E.S stands for Community, Access, Resources, Education and Safety.

The committee was formed by House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-Dewitt. Late last year, Leonard said a mental health overhaul was one of his top priorities.

Now he has appointed over a dozen state lawmakers to serve on the bipartisan task force.

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

The Michigan Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit claiming the state wrongfully accused thousands of people of unemployment fraud.  

In 2013, the state started using an automated system to flag fraud cases. But the system wrongly identified tens of thousands of people – and some of them sued to get their money back, plus fees and interest.

But the court says they waited too long to file the lawsuit.

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

Democratic lawmakers in Lansing have rolled out bills to give a stronger advantage to Michigan companies bidding to do business with the state.

One bill would do give a preference to Michigan-based businesses that bid on state contracts. Another would let Michigan companies get a second chance if they are underbid by an out-of-state firm.

State Senator Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, is a bill sponsor. He says other states have similar preference laws.

state capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The state officially has a spending plan for 2018. Governor Rick Snyder signed a $56.5 billion budget Friday.

Typically the governor wants the budget signed by July 1 of every year. But things got a little bumpy this time.

The governor was even kicked out of negotiations for a little while. But state Senate Appropriations Chair Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, said eventually differences got settled.

“Glad to see this one got done because it was a little bit more of a challenge than in the past. But we got it done,” he said.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder has signed into law controversial changes to the state’s public school employee retirement system.

Starting in February of 2018, new teachers will get a new choice about their retirement savings. They’ll automatically be put into a straight 401(k) plan. But they can enroll in a hybrid plan if they want. That hybrid plan also includes a pension, but it’s more expensive for the teacher. 

Senator Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair says 401(k)s are the way of the future.

morguefile user Penywise / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

State lawmakers passed legislation to give big tax incentives to a handful of large employers Wednesday. 

The bills would let approved companies keep all or part of the state income taxes withheld from their employees’ paychecks. The companies would have to meet job-creation targets and pay their workers average or above-average wages. 

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

The state House meets tomorrow, and Governor Rick Snyder hopes lawmakers will vote on a controversial set of business incentives.

Governor Snyder is trying to salvage an incentive deal that he says could mean thousands of jobs for Michigan. He met Tuesday with state House Speaker Tom Leonard and several other Republican House members.

This is the first face-to-face meeting between Snyder and Leonard since the Speaker abruptly canceled a vote on the incentive three weeks ago.

Elissa Slotkin, in blue short holding a microphone, stands in front of a red-and-white striped background.
Cheyna Roth / MPRN

The 2018 election is still a ways away. But that hasn’t stopped plenty of hopeful candidates from throwing their hats in the ring.

In a downtown Lansing brew pub, a Democrat with eyes on Michigan’s 8th Congressional District announced her candidacy Monday.

Elissa Slotkin hopes to unseat Republican Mike Bishop. Bishop is expected to run for a third term.

Slotkin said she wants to focus on solutions and a clear plan.

 

Judge's gavel
Joe Gratz / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Michigan Supreme Court increased the punishment for a judge who committed sexual harassment.

The Judicial Tenure Commission gave Judge Gregg Iddings a 60-day suspension without pay for sexually harassing his judicial secretary.

The Supreme Court says that’s not enough. It boosted Iddings’ suspension to six months. Iddings will also have to see a counselor for a year.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The use of Native American logos and images for school mascots is once again in the spotlight.

On Thursday the Michigan Attorney General weighed in on whether the State Superintendent can withhold money from schools that refuse to change their mascots.

In the opinion, Schuette says there’s no rule or portion of the school code that lets the Superintendent keep money from schools as a penalty for their mascot.  

Last February, the State Superintendent asked Schuette to weigh in on the issue.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Credit an Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

New public meetings began Thursday about the controversial Enbridge Line 5 pipeline.

Several state agencies and the authors of a report suggesting alternatives to the pipeline gave a presentation and took questions. 

The pipeline sends oil and natural gas across sections of lower and upper Michigan, and runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

A report created by Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, Inc. was released earlier this week. It gives six options for dealing with the decades-old pipeline.

A man holding a firefighter boot and waving down cars for donations
Senior Airman John D. Partlow / U.S. Air Force

Charities might once again be able to tap on your car window to ask for a donation.

The practice was wiped out last August. That’s because the state attorney general issued an opinion saying it was illegal.  

Wednesday lawmakers in the state Senate passed a bill to legalize charitable solicitations at intersections.

Troy Holden / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A new state medical marijuana licensing board met for the first time Monday.

The meeting was mainly for the board to hear public comment about how the new medical marijuana program should operate. It won’t start issuing licenses until next year.

John Kroneck came to the meeting to represent Michigan Prevention Association. That group is concerned about potential consequences of expanding the medical marijuana system.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The latest version of changes to the state’s teacher retirement plan passed through committees Wednesday. The changes were announced late Tuesday and received committee hearings early Wednesday morning.  

The House and Senate adopted identical amendments to bills their respective chambers had already introduced.

Democrats have largely been left out of behind the scenes negotiations between the governor and leaders of the House and Senate. Democratic Representative Winne Brinks voiced her frustration with the speed the bills were moving during a committee hearing.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

A deal for the state’s budget and teacher retirement has been made.

Top Republican lawmakers and Governor Rick Snyder have been in a stalemate over what to do with the teacher’s retirement plan.

But now a deal is in place.

The current teacher retirement plan gives teachers the option between a straight 401K and a hybrid 401K and pension-type plan.

In addition to providing hundreds of thousands with health insurance, Healthy Michigan has also helped Michigan hospitals save hundreds of millions of dollars because of a reduction in uncompensated care.
Chealion / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Republicans in Lansing are trying to roll back the state’s Medicaid expansion – but their legislation may be dead on arrival.

Governor Rick Snyder has been an advocate for the Healthy Michigan Medicaid expansion at home and in Washington, D.C.

But some Republicans in the state House want to close the expansion to all new enrollees beginning October 1st. HB 4598 is currently waiting for its first committee hearing.

Woman with head covering walking away
Héctor de Pereda / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A federal prosecutor recently revealed as many as 100 girls in Michigan may have been victims of female genital mutilation. Now the state legislature is working quickly to pass bills to make it a 15-year felony in Michigan.

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