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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

Michigan flag.
wikimedia commons

Michigan’s state flag might be getting a new design.

A bill proposed by state Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, allows for a new flag design and creates a commission to hold a redesign contest. The contest winner’s design would still have to be approved by the Legislature, but Bieda says no taxpayer money would be involved because the judges would not be paid.

In an interview with Gongwer, Bieda said he drafted the bill because it was, “A nice way to promote the state, and promote arts and sciences and design in the state of Michigan.”

Cheyna Roth

The Capitol Commission has been working to restore these so-called “missing governors” for just over a year. Now Governor Kinsley Bingham, who served as governor from 1854 to 1859, will take his place on the walls of the Capitol.

Valerie Marvin is the Capitol historian. She says Bingham was an untraditional politician.

The Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio file photo

The election is over and now it’s time to plan for the next session.  That was the feeling as Republicans and Democrats chose party leaders two days after the election.

The House Republicans chose Tom Leonard for House Speaker.

Speaker-elect Leonard says he has three main issues he hopes to address next year. Mental health reform, improving skilled trades, and addressing long-term debt and liabilities. Leonard says he is ready to corral the 63-member majority.

Consumers Energy / Flickr/user

The state Senate has adopted an overhaul of Michigan’s energy policy. It’s designed to ensure reliability as the state’s big utilities replace aging coal-fired plants that have to shut down.

The plan is supported by utilities, but opposed by smaller suppliers that compete with utilities for customers like large factories and school districts. 

State Senator Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek) is the plan’s primary architect. He says it requires the smaller suppliers to answer some questions if they want to compete:

House Minority Leader Tim Greimel.
WKAR-TV

Republicans have hung onto their majority in the state House. Meanwhile Democrats are planning a change of leadership for next year.

President-elect Donald Trump’s surprise victory trickled down to the House Republicans. The House kept its Republican majority by the same numbers and puts them in a more relaxed position going into the Lame Duck session.

But the Democrats are getting a bit of a shake-up. House Minority Leader Tim Greimel announced he is not running to lead his caucus for the 2017-2018 session. This leaves a leadership hole in the minority party. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The presidential candidates and their surrogates swung through Michigan on the final day before the polls opened.

President Obama was in Michigan as part of a tour of battleground states. The president tried to drum up support for Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democratic ticket during a rally in Ann Arbor.

Obama spoke to a crowd of about nine thousand people at the University of Michigan. He told first-time voters in the audience that this year has been a strange one in politics. The president said he’s been frustrated by a lot of the news coverage of the campaign.

Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at Grand Valley State University the day before Election Day.
Cheyna Roth / MPRN

The election is tomorrow, but if you thought the major party candidates were going to take a break, you would be wrong. Michigan has secured its position as a battleground state.

Both major party presidential candidates are stopping in West Michigan in the hours before the polls open.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton talked jobs and the economy during a rally at Grand Valley State University. But she also focused on bringing the country together after a very divisive election.

Trump in Michigan on Sunday, Nov. 7th
Cheyna Roth

Michigan is getting battleground state attention from the presidential campaigns. Republican nominee Donald Trump paid a visit to Macomb County, and former President Bill Clinton toured the state to support Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton speaking at Detroit's Eastern Market.
Cheyna Roth / MPRN

Hillary Clinton was back in Michigan today. The Democratic presidential nominee made a stop at Detroit’s Eastern Market for a rally.

Clinton was greeted by thousands of spectators and several times she encouraged them to vote and even take a friend when they go to the polls.

People kept coming into the venue even after Clinton started. Clinton clearly tried to woo Detroit’s large African American population. She referenced rival Donald Trump’s lawsuit for housing discrimination and his past characterization of black life in Detroit.

Mike Pence
www.mikepence.house.gov

The election is days away, and Michigan is still getting quite a bit of attention from both major party presidential candidates.

Republican Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence was in the Kalamazoo area with Texas Senator Ted Cruz to stump for presidential nominee Donald Trump. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has been leading in the state polls, but her lead has shrunk recently.

During his speech, Pence encouraged Michiganders to vote.

ER doctors are learning how to identity patients who may be victims of trafficking
Ira Gelb / Creative Commons

Michigan non-profits are looking into an innovative way of fighting human trafficking. The idea is to take advantage of free advertising on Google.

Google offers ten thousand dollars in free ads to non-profit organizations. The Michigan Human Trafficking Commission and a state police task force are working on gathering as many non-profits as possible to apply for the advertising with one goal in mind: Deter people who search for paid sex from following through.

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

A federal judge in New Jersey is asking the Michigan Republican Party to explain its Election Day anti-fraud plan.

Cheyna Roth / Michigan Radio

A new program to help people with disabilities launched Tuesday.

The Mi – ABLE program gives people with disabilities a savings account with benefits like investment and tax incentives. The account also lets users save up to $100,000  without losing other financial disability benefits.

Kathleen Wochaski is a 2nd grade teacher at Cherokee Elementary School in Clinton Township. Her now 22-year old son has physical disabilities and a cogitative impairment. She said, “It’s a next step in allowing everybody the freedoms that we have as Americans.”

Trump supporter Laurie Sanger came to the Grand Rapids Trump event dressed as Hillary Clinton.
Cheyna Roth / MPRN

Donald Trump spent part of his Halloween in Michigan. The Republican presidential candidate held rallies in Grand Rapids and the battleground area of Macomb County.

While recent polls still show Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with a lead in Michigan, support and enthusiasm were high at the rally. Laurie Sanger got into the Halloween spirit by coming to the rally in costume. She wore an orange “jumpsuit” with Clinton’s name on the back and handcuffs on her wrist.

“I expected more Hillarys here,” Sanger said. “I didn’t know I’d be the only one.”

Flint river
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint residents who filed a class-action lawsuit related to the water crisis got good news and bad news this week.

A Court of Claims judge in Grand Rapids dismissed portions of the lawsuit related to the Flint water crisis The lawsuit alleges state and local officials, including Governor Rick Snyder, violated the constitution and denied them life, liberty, and property without due process.

Veterans Day in Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill Wednesday that requires the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, its successor agency, or the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) to send reports to the governor and Legislature four times a year. The reports must examine issues like timeliness of medication distribution, how patient’s money is accounted for, and staffing levels.

Representative Holly Hughes, R-White River Twp., was a sponsor of the bill. She said the reporting is necessary given the constant turnover in state government.

Governor Rick Snyder
Flickr user Michigan Municipal League / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

An Ingham County Circuit court denied a Flint resident’s request for an investigation into Governor Rick Snyder Tuesday.

Governor Snyder has said his use of tax dollars to pay for his legal counsel on issues surrounding the Flint water crisis was appropriate because the investigations relate to his official duties as governor.

But Flint resident Keri Webber filed a complaint earlier this month asking a court to appoint a one-judge grand jury to investigate Snyder for criminal wrongdoing.

Left: SUZANNA SHKRELI FOR CONGRESS/FACEBOOK Right: mikebishop.house.gov / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

President Obama is endorsing Democratic candidates for Congress, and a Michigan candidate is among them.

The president publicly endorsed 30 Congressional candidates Monday, including the 8th District’s Suzanna Shkreli.

Shkreli was a late addition to the ballot after actress Melissa Gilbert withdrew for health reasons in late May. She is hoping to unseat incumbent Republican Mike Bishop.

Shkreli says she thinks her focus on working class families grabbed the president’s attention.

Wind turbine near Mt. Pleasant, MI.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Senate is back on break until after the election, but when they get back they have made a major piece of legislation a top priority. An overhaul to Michigan’s energy policy will be one of the first items up for vote when the Senate meets again.  

Two energy bills have been waiting for a vote since July of 2015. They finally got out of committee in May. Now, the press secretary for the Senate Republican majority, Amber McCann, says the Senate is finally ready to vote.

Almost.

What caused the Flint water crisis?
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

UPDATED at 10:28 on 10/21/16

Two bills to help Flint recover from the water crisis are making their way through the legislature. Both bills passed through the Senate Thursday with a near-unanimous vote.

Senators Jim Ananich and Jim Stamas speak to the press after the committee released its recommendations.
screengrab / YouTube MLive

Lawmakers have ideas for how to ensure there is not a repeat of the Flint water crisis.

A report released Wednesday by State Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, makes 36 recommendations.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine in Detroit.
Cheyna Roth / Michigan Radio

Senator Tim Kaine was in Detroit today. The running mate of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke at the non-profit Focus: HOPE.

Kaine’s speech was mostly focused on Clinton’s plans for the economy and working to end poverty.

Part of Clinton and Kaine’s plan, he says, is to increase skilled and technical jobs. Kaine says it is especially important in places like Detroit.

Democratic vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine speaking earlier this year.
U.S. Department of Education

Michigan got yet another presidential campaign visit today. Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine was in Detroit.

Kaine spoke at Focus: HOPE.

Focus:HOPE is a nonprofit that works to fight racial injustice and poverty. Kaine talked about running mate Hillary Clinton’s plan to end poverty.

Watch his speech here:

michigan.gov

Changes could be in store for Michigan’s veterans’ services. 

A House and Senate joint committee heard testimony Monday about a package of bills that would create a new Michigan Veterans’ Facility Authority. The Authority would oversee new veteran facilities, and eventually, lawmakers hope, the entire Michigan Veteran Health System would go under the umbrella of the authority.

The legislation comes after an audit of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans last February revealed persistent issues like staffing shortages and not following through on abuse complaints.

Money
Flickr user 401(K) 2012 / Creative Commons

The amount of money candidates in Michigan can get from special interest groups could get cut in half. That’s if a proposed bill finds its way through the legislature.

Currently these groups are allowed to donate ten times the amount of money an individual can. If the bill sponsored by State Representative Martin Howrylak  is passed, the donation limit would be reduced to five times the amount individuals can donate.

Craig Mauger is with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a nonpartisan organization.     

Michigan State Police

The Michigan State Police is getting $2 million from the federal government.

The money comes from three grants earmarked for separate uses.

One grant will pay for overtime for the state police lab to test sexual assault kits. Money will also go to toward investigating cases that have been hung up in backlogs.   

Nancy Bennett is the division director for MSP’s grants and community services division.

A table filled with bottles of Flint water (both clear and brown)
Flint Water Study / Facebook

A Flint resident is asking the Ingham County Circuit court to convene a one-person grand jury to investigate Governor Rick Snyder’s role in the Flint water crisis.

Keri Webber’s complaint says the governor unilaterally approved spending two million dollars on lawyers in violation of state law and the Michigan Constitution. The complaint says the governor can’t approve a contract in which he has a personal stake.

test with bubble answers
User Alberto G. / Creative Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan may soon be making changes to student testing. 

The state's Department of Education is considering adding  a standardized test that would go beyond what's included on the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (or M-STEP), which was implemented during the 2014-2015 school year. 

woman at podium
Cheyna Roth / Michigan Radio

The Michigan League for Public Policy aimed to have what it called an “honest discussion” about racial inequality in Michigan at its annual forum Monday. 

From the Flint water crisis to the state of Detroit Public Schools, the League wanted Michiganders to take a hard look at how racial inequality impacts their communities and learn about ways to make change. 

Cheyna Roth / MPRN

While Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump may have taken up most of Detroit’s attention on Saturday, another candidate was trying to shore up votes for Election Day.

Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein held a rally in the Eastern Marketplace with her running mate Ajamu Baraka. This was their first joint appearance since the Green Party convention in August.

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