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

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.

PKAY CHELLE / FLICKR

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).
 

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

It’s to 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.

Michigan may start tracking its sexual assault evidence kits. An amendment to the state’s budget would pay for the required software and training.

The kits contain swabs and other evidence gathered from a victim of sexual assault. Software would track the kit as it moves from hospital to police department to laboratory. It also sends out alerts if a kit has been in one location too long.

The state legislature held a marathon committee hearing on a bill to overhaul Michigan’s auto insurance law Tuesday. The committee heard ideas for potential changes to the bill. 

One idea is to prevent insurance companies from using credit scores to influence rates.

Michigan’s auto no-fault insurance will be a hot topic this week.

Michigan’s auto insurance rates are among the highest in the country. Right now there are competing plans among legislators aimed at attacking this problem. One focuses on getting rid of the requirement for unlimited medical benefits for catastrophic injuries from car crashes. Instead, it would allow drivers to cap those benefits at specific amounts or keep the unlimited benefit. That bill, HB 5013, has a committee hearing Tuesday.

Another Democrat entered the ring for Michigan’s Attorney General Thursday.

Pat Miles is a former US Attorney for Michigan’s Western District. He was appointed to the US Attorney post by President Barack Obama. He voluntarily resigned when President Donald Trump took office.

Trump’s election was a driving force behind Miles’s decision to run, he said.

“We need somebody who will be an independent watchdog and who doesn’t answer to a president, a governor, or to corporate special interests, but only answers to the people,” Miles said.

Lawmakers in Lansing say they want a seamless transition as marijuana dispensaries start to get licensed.

Democrats in the House and Senate introduced legislation today (Wed). A few Republicans have voiced support of the bills. The legislation would let dispensaries keep their doors open while they wait for a license.

The number of things state employee unions can bargain for shrunk Wednesday. A state board voted to eliminate their collective bargaining powers on, among other things, seniority and provisions related to overtime and job transfers.

Ahead of the meeting, hundreds of union workers gathered to protest.

Steve Carmody

Republicans in Lansing worked at a breakneck speed Tuesday to pass legislation that would allow politicians in Michigan to solicit campaign contributions on behalf of political action committees.

 

The bills had their first House committee hearing Tuesday morning and were headed to the governor’s desk by the end of the day. They’d passed in the Senate late last week.

 

An unlikely alliance has formed to overhaul Michigan’s auto no-fault system. Speaker of the House Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) and Detroit’s mayor Mike Duggan met Tuesday. They say the goal is to bring rate relief to all Michigan drivers.

There’s no word yet on what the plan says about people with catastrophic injuries from car crashes. Right now Michigan is the only state in the US that provides unlimited medical benefits for people in those accidents.

State of Michigan

The state pipeline safety board met for the first time Monday since it was revealed that Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline had lost some of its coating.
 

Medical marijuana dispensaries need to close their doors or risk being denied a license – once the state starts issuing them.

On Tuesday the state’s licensing department gave the dispensaries a December 15th deadline. December 15th is also when the state board will start accepting applications for licenses.

Andrew Brisbo is with the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation. He said three months should be long enough for patients to find alternatives.

A state licensing board could decide Tuesday whether marijuana dispensaries in Michigan should get to stay open.

The Medical Marijuana Licensing Board is expected to start issuing licenses in December. In the meantime, some board members have signaled that existing dispensaries should have to close in order to qualify.

The state’s licensing department plans to speak at the meeting.

Andrew Brisbo is with the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation in the state’s licensing department. He said the bureau wants to make sure patients have safe access to medical marijuana.

Test scores for Michigan’s students showed some improvements, but declines in crucial subjects.

The state’s M-STEP scores were released Tuesday. The M-STEP tests third through eighth and eleventh grade students in various subjects, including math, social studies and English language arts.   

Scores for math and social studies were up – but fewer students were proficient in English language arts than last year.

The state shouldn’t be satisfied, even where there was progress, said The Education Trust Midwest’s Director of Public Engagement, Brian Gutman.

The Trump administration will lift a ban on the military giving some surplus equipment to police departments, and some members of Michigan law enforcement are welcoming the change.

According to the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, the equipment is mostly clothes and items they would buy anyway. Except now, they don’t have to use money from a budget that isn’t always generous.

A free market think-tank says the use of private contractors in public schools has grown over the last decade-and-a-half.

70 percent of public school districts in Michigan forgo the search for janitors, bus drivers and cafeteria staff. Instead, those schools rely on private contractors for at least one of those services. In 2001 only about 30 percent of school districts outsourced services.

James Hohman is with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy – which conducted the study. He said no school can provide public education by itself.

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