Jake Neher

MPRN Capitol Reporter

Jake Neher is a state Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network. 

He joined MPRN in September of 2012. Before that he served as a reporter and anchor for WFUV Public Radio in the Bronx, New York, and as News Director for KBRW Public Radio in Barrow, Alaska. He has been working in radio in some capacity since he was 15 years old.

A native of southeast Michigan, Jake graduated from Central Michigan University in 2010. He has a master's degree in public communications from Fordham University.

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An emergency spending bill to keep Detroit Public Schools open through the school year is moving quickly through the state House.

 

A House panel on Wednesday approved using about $50 million in tobacco settlement money to keep the nearly bankrupt district from closing its doors on April 8th.

 

Democratic state Representative Harvey Santana is from Detroit. He says the measure gives lawmakers much-needed time to consider a permanent rescue package for the district.

 

A Wayne County judge sentenced Detroit state Senator Virgil Smith to ten months in jail Monday – but the court saga isn’t over just yet.

Smith had initially been charged with several felonies, after a violent domestic dispute with his ex-wife in May 2015.

But Smith cut a plea deal with prosecutors. He ended up pleading guilty to just one count, malicious destruction of property, for shooting up his ex-wife’s Mercedes.

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Republican state lawmakers are fast-tracking a bill making it harder to put issues on the statewide ballot.

The legislation would set a hard 180-day limit for collecting petition signatures. Right now, campaigns can argue that older signatures are valid and should be counted.

Senate Bill 776 passed on a party-line vote.

Republicans say it makes the law more clear.

“Everybody knows it’s going to be within those 180 days,” said state Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive.

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The state Legislature will kick off hearings on the Flint water crisis next week.

The first hearing on Tuesday morning will focus on a report from the Michigan auditor general that looked into decisions that led to the crisis.

  

Republican state Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, is the chair of the joint legislative committee.

Jake Neher / MPRN

The state’s largest school district will likely not be able to make payroll after April 8.

That’s what new Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Steven Rhodes told state lawmakers at a hearing on Wednesday.

Rhodes says he can’t guarantee employees will get paid after April 8 because the district will likely run out of money during that payroll period.

He’s urging lawmakers to act quickly to pass a bailout.

“I’m deeply concerned about the district running out of money on April 8th. There is no Plan B,” Rhodes told reporters after the hearing.

Gov. Rick Snyder in a file photo.
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Governor Rick Snyder is holding firm to his vow to stay in office amid growing calls for his resignation.

Both Democratic presidential candidates called for Snyder to resign during their debate in Flint. It was the first time former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said he should step down over Flint’s water crisis.

The governor says that’s not going to happen.

“I’m not resigning, I’m going to solve this problem,” Snyder told reporters after an appearance in Detroit on Monday.

“I said I was sorry and I’m going to fix it.”

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Bills to ease penalties for minors who are caught with alcohol have cleared the state Senate.

Under current law, a first minor-in-possession (MIP) offense comes with a misdemeanor charge and possible jail time. The legislation would make it a civil fine. The state Senate approved the bill with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Supporters say one MIP offense can make it tough for young people to get a job.

“This is outrageous, criminalizing young people for having a beer or even a beer in their system,” said bill sponsor Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge).

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

The top Democrat in the state House is calling on Gov. Rick Snyder to resign.

State House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, says he should step down “for his actions and inactions pertaining to the Flint water crisis.”

Greimel is the first high-ranking lawmaker to call on Snyder to step down since the scope of Flint’s water crisis became public and the state began action to resolve it. Snyder’s office voluntarily released emails recently that show top aides raised concerns months earlier.

  

Kevin Spencer / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

There’s a bipartisan effort at the state Capitol to ban special education teachers from secluding and restraining students.

Under the legislation, teachers could still restrain and seclude special needs students in emergency situations.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley chaired the state’s special education task force, which recommended the ban. He has called the practices “barbaric” and “inhumane.”

“When you replace that with the positive behavior interventions and supports, the ability for teachers to teach more effectively and students to learn more goes up,” said Calley.

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Michigan corrections workers did not properly document prisoner transfers between October 2013 and September of last year. That’s according to a new report from the Michigan auditor general’s office.

It says workers failed to document key information such as prisoner counts, departure times, and reasons for the transports. It says that made it difficult for the department to monitor the transports.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A joint state House committee could begin hearings as soon as this week on a scathing audit of a state-run veterans’ home.

Among other things, the report found the Grand Rapids facility was understaffed, and that workers mishandled abuse and neglect complaints and failed to conduct required safety checks.

lockers lining a school hallway
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s top treasury official is warning lawmakers to not let the state’s largest district go bankrupt.

A state House panel on Wednesday held its first hearing on legislation to keep Detroit Public Schools from going broke in April.

State Treasurer Nick Khouri told lawmakers bankruptcy would likely cost taxpayers more than twice as much as a state bailout.

“The total cost to the state and others is about $700 million with this package. It’s probably about $1.8 billion or so if the district actually files and we work through bankruptcy,” said Khouri.

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

The state House has approved a bill meant to clarify a controversial new law limiting what local officials can say publicly about ballot questions.

Civic and local school officials say the law imposes a “gag order” – making it illegal for them to give factual information on ballot proposals.

State Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto, says her bill makes it clear that local officials can give information as long as it’s factual and neutral.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
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State lawmakers will hold hearings on the Flint water crisis and the state’s response.

Legislative leaders on Tuesday announced a joint state House and Senate committee to review reports on what happened in Flint and make policy recommendations to avoid a similar crisis in the future.

Republicans were quick to say that it’s not an investigation and that the panel will not have subpoena power.

“I don’t think that we need to have subpoena power,” said Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, who will chair the panel.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder says his office will release all Flint-related emails dating back to the beginning of his administration in 2011, including the governor’s emails and staff emails.

Gov. Snyder says they’ll come soon – but has not given a specific date and time.

Snyder says attorneys need to look over the emails and remove any documents that would normally be exempt from public information requests. The governor is releasing the documents voluntarily, as his office is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A state elections board has approved language for another petition seeking to recall Gov. Rick Snyder.

This is the first petition approved for circulation that cites the governor’s handling of the Flint water crisis as a reason to remove him from office. The board OK’d another petition earlier this month that references Snyder’s decision to move Michigan’s School Reform Office out of the Michigan Department of Education and place it under his direct control.

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Organizers behind six efforts to recall Gov. Rick Snyder hope to get a green light from a state elections board Monday.

The state Board of Canvassers has rejected petition language for more than 20 recall efforts in recent weeks. But it did approve one to recall Snyder for his school reform policies.

Rev. David Bullock is offering petition language related to the governor’s handling of the Flint water crisis. He says that’s the issue that will motivate voters to get behind a recall.

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The top lawmaker in the state House says bankruptcy should be on the table as a way to help resolve Detroit Public Schools’ financial crisis.

Both the state House and Senate have plans that would commit hundreds of millions of state dollars to help restructure the district and pay down debt.

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State House Republicans are offering their own proposal to aid Detroit Public Schools.

Like similar legislation in the state Senate, the bills would restructure the state’s largest district and commit more than $70 million a year from the state to help pay down its debt.

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Legislation to keep many 17-year-olds from going to adult prisons cleared a state House panel on Tuesday.

Michigan is one of only a handful of states that automatically prosecutes 17-year-olds as adults. The bills would end that practice.

People under 18 could still go to adult prisons for violent crimes such as murder.

  

State Rep. Harvey Santana, D-Detroit, is leading the effort. He says it’s one of the most important criminal justice initiatives moving forward in the country.

Jake Neher / MPRN

Two presidential candidates paid a visit to Michigan on Monday.

In Ypsilanti, more than 9,000 people packed Eastern Michigan University’s Convocation Center today to see Bernie Sanders speak. 

The Flint River.
Sarah Razak / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The state House could take up another emergency spending bill this week to help address the Flint water crisis.

The state Senate has already unanimously approved the bill – which would set aside $30 million to help Flint with unpaid water bills.

The chair of the House Appropriations Committee says the panel will review the bill this week.

Jake Neher / Michigan Public Radio

A group of state House Democrats hopes the crisis in Flint will help bring attention to other issues they say threaten clean water in Michigan.

They announced bills on Thursday that would increase regulations on fracking.

Democrats say there’s an opportunity to have a serious conversation about fracking and other water quality issues.

“Now that there’s a little more attention, this gives us an opportunity to go to our colleagues and say, hey look, here’s another threat, here’s another problem,” said state Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor).

nearly one in every five DPS students  qualifies for some special education services
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Detroit parents, teachers, and school officials were in Lansing on Tuesday to speak out on bills meant to rescue Michigan’s largest district.

Demonstrators gathered outside a state Senate committee hearing on Senate bills 710 and 711. Not to oppose the legislation, but to bring attention to the deteriorating state of Detroit Public Schools (DPS).

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Legislative hearings are underway on a plan to keep Detroit Public Schools from going broke.

Bills in the state Senate would commit more than $700 million from the state to restructure Michigan’s largest district and help pay down its crushing debt.

Lawmakers serving on the state Senate Government Operations Committee acknowledged repeatedly that the stakes are high.

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

A bill meant to clarify what civic and school officials can tell residents about local ballot measures is moving forward in the state House.

School districts and local governments have been bashing a new law that limits what they can say about local proposals 60 days ahead of an election. They’re calling it a “gag order.”

Chalkboard
user alkruse24 / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Bills meant to crack down on teacher “sickout” protests are moving forward in the Michigan Senate.

The bills would define the sickouts as illegal teacher strikes in state law. The protests have closed dozens of Detroit schools in recent weeks.

A legislative panel approved the legislation on Tuesday while adding more teeth to the bills. New language would temporarily block unions from representing teachers and collecting dues in districts where sickouts are happening.

kconnors / morgueFile

State lawmakers say they’ve reached a deal to increase speed limits on some Michigan roadways.

On Tuesday, a state House panel is expected to vote on bills that could set speed limits on some highways as high as 75 miles-per-hour. The bipartisan bills would set speed limits based on studies that show how fast most drivers already travel.

Lawmakers were considering going as high as 80 miles-per-hour. But that plan stalled – in part due to safety concerns.

Inside the Michigan Senate
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The state Senate could vote as soon as Thursday on emergency funding to help address Flint’s water crisis.

A state Senate panel unanimously approved the $28 million on Wednesday, as well as a provision meant to guarantee all Flint kids age zero to three have access to free developmental screenings paid for by the state.

“We’re actually investing directly in those kids in Flint that are most likely to have been ill-affected by lead poisoning,” said state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-Meridian Twp.

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More than 300 Michigan inmates sentenced as minors to life without parole could get a second chance at early release. That’s under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling handed down Monday.

In 2012, the court ruled that sentencing minors to mandatory life in prison without the chance for parole was cruel and unusual. But it left it up to states to decide whether people sentenced before then should get resentencing hearings. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled they shouldn’t.

But now the U.S. Supreme Court says all so-called juvenile lifers should be able to argue for early release.

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