Cheyna Roth

Capital 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

An effective food system in the state’s prisons should go beyond just feeding prisoners. That’s the message of some lawmakers in the state Senate.

The governor announced he wants to end privatized food service in the state’s prisons. Senator John Proos (R-St. Joseph) said this is an opportunity to go a step further. He’s put together a work group to explore training inmates in food services. Proos said there are thousands of available jobs across the state in the restaurant industry.

Abdul El-Sayed for Michigan

In the race for Michigan’s next governor, a Democrat crossed a significant hurdle today. Abdul El-Sayed was the first Democrat to file his signatures to get on the ballot.

But there have been questions about whether El-Sayed is even eligible to run. Bridge Magazine first reported that his voting history could derail his campaign. 

High schoolers, lawmakers, and concerned citizens held a rally at the state Capitol Thursday for changes to the state’s gun laws.

The rally comes the week after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 17 students and staff members were killed.

Participants called for a ban on assault rifles, stricter background checks before buying a gun, and more money for mental health services. But most of all, the high school students at the rally want to feel safe in their schools.

Lawmakers in Lansing want to put 175 million dollars toward the state’s roads. The state House passed the spending bill Wednesday.

Governor Rick Snyder initially proposed a similar spending bump for the next budget cycle. But lawmakers say the potholes and crumbling roads need to be addressed as soon as possible. They want the money available in time for construction season.

A high school freshman came to the state Capitol Tuesday to advocate on behalf of sexual assault legislation.

Gianna Duva goes to Brighton High School. She was sexually assaulted by a fellow student off school grounds. Duva and her mother unsuccessfully petitioned the school board when they found out her assailant would be allowed to return to school with her after he finished his sentence. So they went to the Legislature.

Consumers Energy plans to become more environmentally friendly – while keeping customer bills stable.

The company rolled out its “Clean Energy Breakthrough Goal” Monday. It plans to reduce its carbon emissions by 80 percent and use zero coal by 2040. The company also plans to have more than 40 percent of its energy come from renewable sources and energy storage by that same deadline.

“In the past, people believed that we had to choose between affordable and clean energy,” said Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe. “We don’t subscribe to that sucker’s choice.”

Michigan State University’s Faculty Senate will hold a no confidence vote in the school’s Board of Trustees Tuesday. The vote is, in part, the result of the Board’s appointment of former governor John Engler.

“Although it’s mostly a symbolic vote, I think it very accurately represents our community at this point,” said MSU senior Alondra Alvizo.

Michigan House Republicans

Governor Rick Snyder delivers his eighth State of the State address Tuesday. The State of the State is a yearly event where the governor lays out his priorities for the upcoming year.

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration is looking at making changes to state tax laws early in 2018. That’s after it discovered the new federal tax law could have an impact on Michigan resident’s wallets.

One consequence is the loss of some exemptions. That would raise what people owe in state taxes. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley has been looking into the issue. He said the administration wants to change the state tax code so residents can still use all the state tax exemptions. Calley said they’re waiting for a bit more data before making any final decisions.

A fight between school employees and the state ended today – in favor of the employees.

The state took money from their paychecks between 2010 and 2012. That was after a law was passed allowing the state to take three percent of their pay for retiree health care costs. The Michigan Supreme Court said the law was unconstitutional, but that didn’t resolve the question of what to do about the money, some 550 million dollars, that had already been handed over to the state.

Nine cities and counties from across Michigan are taking drug companies to court. From the Upper Peninsula to Detroit, they are trying to recover many millions of dollars in costs related to the opioid crisis.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court Monday night. It claims manufacturers, distributors and pharmacy chains misled doctors and the public about the dangers of opioids. And the legal actions also say the drug companies failed to follow safeguards that would have reduced the number of people addicted to opioids.

The governor 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.

Senator Steve Bieda (D-Warren) sponsored a bill in the package. That bill is aimed at curbing “doctor shopping.” It would require patients have a bona-fide relationship with a doctor who prescribes an opiate.

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.

Sue Leeming is the Deputy Director in the Office of External Relations for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. She said dealing with PFAS has been a challenge because it’s an emerging contaminant.

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.

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.

Michigan residents who want to get into the medical marijuana business had their last shot at a training session Wednesday.

State employees took people step by step through the application process. They also explained the monitoring system for tracking marijuana from seed-to-sale.

David Harns is a spokesperson for the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. It oversees the medical marijuana licensing system. Harns says the trainings were meant to help make the application process as easy as possible.

The State Board of Education can’t agree on what to do about recent gun legislation.

There are four Democrats and four Republicans on the board, and there must be five “yes” votes in order for any measure to pass. With the partisan gridlock, the board currently can’t come to an agreement on a public position on bills that loosen restrictions on guns in schools.

Bills that recently passed in the state Senate would, among other things, require schools to allow people with a special permit to carry concealed weapons on school grounds.


In the wake of another mass shooting, the state Legislature took up bills to expand the state’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.

Morgan Springer

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. 

Michigan’s 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level is set to expire next year. But a bill is on its way to the governor’s desk to prevent that.

Once in a while the state’s BAC level essentially expires. The law has a built in sunset that requires the Legislature to look at the level and consider changing it. But bill sponsor Klint Kesto (R-Walled Lake) says the current level is good for Michigan and it needs to stay.

“I think it’s good for public safety, I think it’s good for road safety, and I think it’s good for the safety of all our Michigan families out there,” he said.

Michigan needs to create more opportunities for kids of color. That’s according to advocates after a new report was released Tuesday. The report shows that African-American kids in Michigan fare worse in areas like education than in any other state.

Getting into the medical marijuana game may require thousands of dollars in liquid assets.

The state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs announced its recommendations for financial requirements for people trying to get a license Tuesday. It took the recommendations to the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board for board member input and for public comment.

Depending on the type of license a person wants, he or she may be required to show that they have a certain amount of liquid assets.

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.”

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.

Steve Carmody, Michigan Radio

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).