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

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.

Many states across the country cut funding for public higher education during the Great Recession. A new report shows the money hasn’t been replaced in most states – including in Michigan.

A new Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report looks at how states have slashed funding for public universities over the last decade. Michigan ranks in the middle. However, experts say that doesn’t paint the whole picture.

 A new candidate entered the ring for Michigan Republican Secretary of State nomineeTuesday. Each political party will pick its nominee for Secretary of State at a convention in 2018. Stan Grot hopes the Republicans will choose him.

Grot is a former assistant Secretary of State and current Shelby Township clerk. One of Grot’s main focuses is election integrity.

In December, the state will start accepting applications for medical marijuana shops to get licenses. But meanwhile, there’s a dispute over how to deal with the dispensaries that are already open.

The state’s medical marijuana licensing board Monday considered whether dispensaries should have to close their doors before they can get a license. At least two board members want dispensaries that are already open to close next month – or risk being denied a license.

Several ballot proposals for Michigan’s 2018 election crossed a hurdle Thursday.

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.

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

The hearings come after a new law was signed at the end of last year. That law gives wrongfully convicted people money for each year they were in prison.

Two of the four cases were dismissed without any money given to the former inmates. One of the requirements to get money is that new evidence shows the former inmate didn’t commit the crime. A judge said the two cases didn’t have new evidence.

A report says troubles at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans’ Home are largely resolved.

A 2016, audit of the home revealed that the home was chronically understaffed, and instances of patient abuse and neglect. There were also issues with dispensing drugs and un-answered calls for assistance.

The state Auditor General’s Office released a follow-up report Thursday. It says care at the home has improved. For example, it found caregivers keep better track of where patients are, and the home is looking into patient complaints more thoroughly.

Infant death rates in Michigan are down overall. But race and income still seem to make a difference in whether children live past their first birthday.

The Michigan League for Public Policy released a study Wednesday. It compares infant mortality trends from 2010 (2008-2010, three-year average) and 20-15 (2013-2015, three-year average).

While overall, the death rate is down, the mortality rate for Hispanic babies rose during the time of the study. The study also found that black babies die at over twice the rate of white infants.

Michigan environmental groups are frustrated with Ontario’s support for keeping an oil-and-gas pipeline running beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The province’s Ministry of Energy sent Michigan a letter earlier this week that stressed the importance of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline to Ontario.

Environmental groups say this flies in the face of their efforts to shut down the pipeline. Line 5 carries crude oil and liquid natural gas under the Straits of Mackinac. Activists say it’s a massive environmental risk.

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.

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) plans are the way of the future.

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.

Governor Rick Snyder advocated strongly for the bills, but some members of his own party were not on board. Representative Martin Howrylak (R-Troy) opposed the bills. He said the incentives take from taxpayers and give to wealthy businesses.

The state House meets Wednesday and Governor Rick Snyder hopes they will vote on a controversial set of business tax breaks.

Governor Snyder is trying to salvage a business tax 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.

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

On Thursday, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette 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. 

Cheyna Roth

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 under the Straits of Mackinac.

The 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 the Michigan Prevention Association. That group is concerned about potential consequences of expanding the medical marijuana system.

The latest version of changes to the state’s teacher retirement plan passed full chamber votes Thursday.

This came after major 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.

Pages