WUOMFM

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

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

A new veterans’ home may not go in Detroit as originally planned.

State lawmakers OK’d a bill Wednesday that says the new home can go in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb counties. If the state still can’t find a place within 45 days, then it can look in the greater southeast Michigan area. The measure was part of a larger funding bill that included funding to address a chemical that has cropped up in groundwater around the state.

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

Gov. Rick Snyder has a stack of bills aimed at combating the opioid crisis headed to his desk. Lawmakers in the House and Senate passed bipartisan legislation Wednesday. A major goal is limiting the amount of opioids available to people who don’t need them.

 

The DEQ PFAS Investigation Map near Rockford, MI.
From Goole map provided by Wolverine Worldwide

Money might be on the way to help fight perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in Michigan.

 

PFAS is a family of chemicals that’s been discovered in groundwater in 14 communities, and 28 sites, across the state. PFAS chemicals are used in things like flame retardants, cleaning products and food packaging.

 

Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Legislature has sent Governor Rick Snyder a set of local retirement bills that passed by wide margins once they were stripped of controversial provisions.

The bills stalled last week as local governments and public employee unions protested measures that would give the state sweeping authority over local budgets. 

Those were taken out, and now local governments will have their retirement plans assessed by the state Treasury, says state Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive.

Inside the Michigan Senate
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Democratic lawmakers are trying once again to repeal the state’s “Right to Work” law.

Five years ago, a Republican-led Legislature made Right to Work the law of the state. It prohibits contracts that make union membership a condition of employment.

Democrats say letting people opt out of unions gives them a free ride to the benefits of the union.

Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, is a bill sponsor. He said strong unions are important to Michigan, but Right to Work diminishes the power of unions and reduces the number of members.

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

Members of a pipeline advisory board are criticizing a deal Governor Snyder struck with the energy company Enbridge. They are calling for the line to be temporarily shut down.

The Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, created by a governor’s executive order, met Monday. Some members raised concerns over Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, and the agreement the governor made with the company after the line showed wear on the decades-old protective coating.

bottom of chalkboard, with an eraser and chalk sitting on the ledge
User alkruse24 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

When it comes to paying for special education, Michigan comes up short. By about $700 million. That’s according to a new report released Wednesday by Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley.      

Calley previously instructed a subcommittee on the Special Education Reform Task Force to explore the funding needs for special education. 

Garretttaggs55 / wikipedia commons

A proposal to legalize marijuana in Michigan overcame a critical hurdle Monday. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol turned in more than 360,000 signatures to the Board of State Canvassers. Now they need to get enough signatures approved so it can go on the 2018 ballot.

So far, the measure hasn’t run into strong opposition. But Josh Hovey, who is with the coalition, says the lack of opposition right now doesn’t mean they can skimp on fundraising.

“Most successful ballot initiatives need to raise a total of about $8 million,” he said. “You know, we’ve raised about a million so far, spent about a million. We need to keep on raising money and do what we need to do to communicate to voters all across the state and that doesn’t come cheap.”

State Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren.
bieda.senatedems.com

A teen was recently attacked in Muskegon County. Officials say it’s because he’s gay. Now prosecutors and lawmakers are calling on the legislature to expand the state’s hate crimes law.

A 17-year old boy was stripped of his clothes and assaulted. The evidence was clear to Muskegon County prosecutor D.J. Hilson – The teen was attacked because he was gay. But when he looked at the statute, he couldn’t charge the case as hate crime, which comes with increased penalties.

Hilson says it’s time for the Legislature to protect all citizens.

young kids playing with toys on floor
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Some of the state’s major education entities can’t come to a consensus about recent gun legislation.

The bills would, among other things, let people who get a special license carry a concealed weapon into schools.

Brian Whiston is the state superintendent. He says the Department of Education is okay with the bills, but says they need to get rid of the requirement that all schools allow concealed carry.

“In some communities it’s kind of natural," he said. "In some communities it’s not. By allowing the local districts to opt in and out is something we would support.”

Potrait of Governor Charles Croswell
Cheyna Roth / Michigan Public Radio Network

Another governor has found his place on the walls of the Michigan State Capitol.

Governor Charles Croswell’s portrait was unveiled Monday. He’s one of the so-called “Missing Governors” that the Capitol Commission has been trying to bring to the Capitol over the last couple years.

Handguns
user Joshuashearn / wikimedia commons

In the wake of another mass shooting, the state Legislature took up bills to expand Michigan’s concealed carry laws.

Legislation would let people who get a special license carry a concealed weapon in places where they’re currently banned: places like schools and day cares.

Wikimedia Commons

More problems plague the food in Michigan’s prisons. This time it’s maggots.

An investigation by The Detroit Free Press found three separate incidents over the summer of maggots in the food at a Jackson-area prison.

This isn’t the first time there have been complaints against Trinity Services Group. Last May the liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan obtained reports that a different facility had maggot-infested potatoes.

Food service has been outsourced for about five years now.

Josh Angehr / Flickr

The state House voted Thursday night to get rid of Michigan’s Driver Responsibility Fee, but the bills could hit a roadblock in the state Senate.

The House and Senate both want to get rid of the fees. They were originally enacted to fill a hole in the state budget. Bill sponsor, Representative Joseph Bellino (R-Monroe) called the fees a failed experiment.

“Driver Responsibility Fees do nothing to improve driving habits but do keep families in debt,” he said.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A plan to overhaul the state’s auto insurance system failed late Thursday night.

The bill would have gotten rid of the requirement that everyone have unlimited personal injury coverage. Instead, drivers would have been able to choose from three levels of coverage.

Speaker of the House Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) blamed Democrats for the failure. Leonard said he was always clear that he would need 10 to 15 Democrats for the bill to pass.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A conservative radio host lost his fight against the Detroit News today. The Michigan Court of Appeals said associating The Political Cesspool host, James Edwards, with the Ku Klux Klan is protected opinion speech.

The newspaper’s columnist Bankole Thompson wrote an opinion piece where he said:

Money
Flickr user 401(K) 2012 / Creative Commons

If you do the work, you should get all the pay. That’s the message of Democratic lawmakers in Lansing. They announced a package of bills Monday aimed at preventing what they call wage theft by employers.

Wage theft is what happens when an employer finds way to keep money you earned on the job. Like not giving you all your tips or making you work off the clock.

Cristian Newman @ismaelnieto

If most people over the age of 65 will need long-term care, what will that look like, and will they be able to afford it? That’s what State Representative Jon Hoadley wants the state to study. He and other lawmakers are backing bills to measure that cost and come up with some funding options.  

Hoadley says people turn 65 every day, but the long-term insurance market is unstable.

“All that together means that a storm is coming,” he says. “We have an opportunity with this bill to get ahead of this problem.”

Sarah Slocum specializes in elder care for a nonprofit health group. She says the state needs to know what all that long-term care will cost.

“We’ve been working very hard in the advocate community, from the department, from the provider prospective to make improvements in long-term care,” Slocum says. “But the puzzle that we have not yet unlocked is financing and how to make that really work across the spectrum.”

The state report wouldn’t make recommendations, but it would outline some options for lawmakers such as tax credits and reinsurance to improve the marketplace. The bill received its first committee hearing last week.

Department of Defense

Kids in Michigan might get a new way to keep their criminal records clean. A bill in the state Legislature would let juveniles who meet certain requirements have their criminal record expunged – if they complete a rigorous school program.

“We want to give these guys and girls a fresh start in life when their initial rollout has been a little bit rocky,” said bill sponsor Representative John Bizon, R-Battle Creek.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

A new report by the the Annie E. Casey Foundation says Michigan’s children of color fare worse in education and other areas than their counterparts across the U.S.

pixabay.com

Gov. Rick Snyder has suspended Michigan State Police’s Colonel Kriste Etue’s pay for five days. But activists continue to call for her removal.

Members of the liberal group Progress Michigan delivered a petition to Governor Rick Snyder’s office. It was signed by almost 85,000 people across the United States.

This comes after Etue shared a meme on Facebook that called NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem “degenerates.” Etue apologized.

State Rep. Leslie Love, D-Detroit, says the Colonel should still be removed from her position.

Josh Angehr / Flickr

State lawmakers have hit a roadblock when it comes to forgiving unpaid Driver Responsibility Fees.

The House and Senate have legislation to get rid of the controversial fee, and forgive those who haven’t paid it.

The governor’s administration hasn’t been on board with outright forgiveness for everyone. That’s because even though many people don’t pay their Driver Responsibility Fees, the ones that do added 80 million dollars to the state revenue last year alone.

Will Folsom / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Michigan Legislature is looking to create five new “Promise Zones.” Those are special cities and communities that provide free college tuition for high school graduates.

The bill was originally intended to make Flint a Promise Zone, but a committee decided to bring the state’s total of Promise Zones up from 10 to 15.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich is from Flint, which will likely apply for Promise Zone status. He said this would give the people of his city hope and a reason to stay after the water crisis.

A lighthouse on Pelee Island in Lake Erie.
Richard Hsu / Flickr

A new partnership has a plan to keep Lake Erie clean. The MI CLEAR group is made up of farmers, conservationists, environmental leaders, and more. Those groups are teaming up with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Jamie Clover Adams is the Director of the Department of Agriculture. She said the multiple perspectives will help improve the lake’s water quality on a variety of fronts.

“This didn’t happen overnight and it’s not gonna be fixed overnight,” she said. “This is a very complex problem that will call for many solutions.”

Larry Nassar mug shot
Michigan Attorney General's office

A former Michigan State University sports doctor’s sexual assault case will continue as scheduled – despite objections by both the defense and the prosecutors.

Both sides agree Dr. Larry Nassar’s Ingham County trial needs to wait. Nassar will be sentenced on federal child pornography charges soon.

The current schedule has that court date happening the same week as jury selection for sexual assault charges in an Ingham County court.

The prosecutor and defense said that with all the media attention, Nassar wouldn’t be able to get a fair trial with that schedule.

Rosemarie Aquilina is the judge in the Ingham County case. She says there will be over 700 jurors to choose from.

“Those jurors will be told not to listen to the media.  Not to do any homework,” Aquilina said.

Nassar is accused of sexually assaulting multiple young gymnasts under the guise of medical treatment.

Aquilina says that trial will go forward as planned.

School desks
Flickr user Frank Juarez/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Some lawmakers in Lansing are debating whether the State Board of Education is necessary.

The resolution discussed at Thursday’s House education committee would do away with the state board, the board-appointed state superintendent, and the State Board for Public Community and Junior Colleges.

Instead, the governor would appoint a director for Michigan’s Department of Education.

A Republican candidate for governor has been kicked off of his Senate committees.

Senator Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton) is known for being outspoken on conservative issues – even against his own party. He’s spoken out against Republican handling of the Medicaid expansion and the gas tax. Colbeck was already one of the few Republican Senators without a committee chairmanship.

Colbeck said he’ll continue to represent his district – it just might be a little harder now.

Michigan State Police

Legislation to nix Driver Responsibility Fees is moving through the state Legislature.

The fees require drivers to pay to get their driver’s license back after getting too many points on their license or committing certain driving offenses.

There’s already a law to phase out the fees completely in 2019. But lawmakers say that’s not soon enough. They want the fee to be gone by October of next year. And they want people that haven’t paid their fees to be forgiven.

Morgan Brenner / Flickr

A bill in the state Legislature would change how schools teach sex education. The new curriculum would focus on “changing the culture” around sexual assault.

“Under the current system, my daughter will be taught where not to walk, what not to wear, where not to leave her drink, while my sons will never be taught not to be perpetrators,” said bill sponsor, state Senator Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing.

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

The Michigan Supreme Court has awarded more than $3 million in grants to circuit courts across the state.

The money will help pay for the Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program, an intense probation supervision program in the state. The program is for high-risk, felony offenders who have a history of violating the rules of their probation. It offers specialized and structured help so they can finish their probation successfully – and stay out of trouble.

Pages