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.

Ways To Connect

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State lawmakers will try again to crack down on animal cruelty in Michigan.

A state Senate panel will take up a pair of bills on Tuesday that would increase penalties for serial animal abusers. The worst offenders – those who abuse 25 or more animals or who have three or more prior convictions – would face felony charges and up to seven years in prison.

Similar bills failed to clear the Legislature last year.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr

A group of Republican state lawmakers will try again to protect religious practices against state and local government interference.

The Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) failed to pass before the legislative session ended last year.

State Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, introduced the bill again this week.

“It’s simply all about protecting and preserving the rights that the Constitution provides for all citizens – not just select groups of citizens,” he said.

Gov. Rick Snyder

Gov. Rick Snyder says he has faith the public will approve a May ballot proposal to boost road funding. That’s despite a recent study from a Michigan State University researcher that said the measure might already be in trouble.

The proposal would raise the state’s sales tax from six percent to seven percent. It would increase funding for roads, schools, and local governments.

Gov. Rick Snyder

Gov. Rick Snyder is following up his State of the State address on Tuesday by continuing to promote skilled trades. In the speech, Snyder highlighted skilled trades as a way to boost employment, education, and Michigan’s economy during.

The governor visited a mold and die plant in Lansing the morning after the speech to highlight programs that train skilled workers.

“They’re not jobs that go away easily,” Snyder told reporters at the event. “If you think about huge capital equipment, you need well-trained, really good people running that equipment.”

The nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take same-sex marriage cases from Michigan and three other states. The high court will decide this term whether the states' bans are constitutional.

In its decision to hear the case, the Supreme Court said the cases will be consolidated to answer two questions. From the decision:

morgueFile

The ACT is appealing Michigan’s decision to switch its eleventh grade standardized test to the SAT.

The state gives high school juniors a free college entrance exam as part of their state assessment.

The ACT claims the state’s bidding process unfairly favored the SAT. For example, it said ACT lost points because it includes a writing portion.

State officials say they made an extra effort to make sure the bidding process was fair.

Digital Archaeology / Flickr

A new commission will be tasked with finding ways to cut Michigan’s prison spending without compromising public safety. Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation on Monday creating the panel.

Michigan currently spends about $2 billion a year on its corrections system. Advocates say much of that money is wasted “warehousing” criminals who have already served their minimum sentences and who pose no threat to public safety.

.matter. / Flickr

  More low-level offenders will be able to have their criminal records erased from public records under a bill Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law Monday.

People will be able to ask the court that convicted them to erase up to one felony or two misdemeanors.

“We really think that this gives people with records a really meaningful second chance,” said Shelli Weisberg with the ACLU of Michigan.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to start signing bills Monday as part of a package to boost state road funding. The legislation is contingent on a May ballot question that would raise Michigan’s sales tax from six percent to seven percent.

If voters approve the plan, the new revenue is expected to raise more than $1 billion for roads and infrastructure, $300 million for schools, $130 million for mass transit, and almost $100 million for local governments every year.

Nate Grigg / Flickr

The state needs to do more to protect kids in child care. That’s according to a new policy brief from the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The document says the state would need to hire 140 additional child care facility inspectors to the 70 now working to make caseloads manageable.

A.Nich / Flickr

Michigan high school juniors will take the SAT instead of the ACT starting in spring 2016. The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) announced the switch on Wednesday.

The state has provided a free college entrance exam for eleventh graders on the state’s standardized test for several years.

The College Board – the company that administers the SAT – won a three-year, $17.1 million contract.

MDE spokesperson Martin Ackley says the SAT will be a better test that will save the state money.

Jake Neher / MPRN

Public officials and advocates are asking for help to clear a massive backlog of rape kits in Detroit.

More than 11,000 unopened and untested rape kits were found in a Detroit police storage unit in 2009. Since then, at least 2,000 have been tested.

Officials are now launching an unprecedented fundraising effort to help clear the rest of the backlog. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, the Detroit Crime Commission, and the Michigan Women’s Foundation are calling the collaboration Enough SAID (Sexual Assault in Detroit).

In the classroom.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A bill in front of Gov. Rick Snyder would require the state to find out how much it costs to educate a student in Michigan.

The legislation would require the state to find a qualified vendor to conduct the study. It would have to be completed within a year. At that point the findings would be presented to the governor and the Legislature.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder may soon approve a commission to review the state’s criminal justice policies.

Advocates say the state needlessly warehouses some inmates who would not threaten public safety if released. They say that’s a major reason Michigan spends $2 billion a year on its corrections system.

The commission would make recommendations to the Legislature on ways to safely reform the state’s criminal justice system.

Classroom
User Motown31 / Creative Commons

Gov. Rick Snyder is still interested in passing legislation to increase state intervention in schools with financial troubles.

The plan was one of Snyder’s education goals in 2014. It would increase reporting requirements for schools that risk going into budget deficit. It would also make it easier for the state to assign an emergency manager if districts don’t follow through on promises to get their books in order.

A set of companion bills would have also opened up more money in state grants and loans for eligible schools.

dave / morgueFile

Gov. Rick Snyder will soon consider a bill that could make public records cheaper and easier to obtain.

Proponents have long claimed some agencies that are subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) charge exorbitant fees to process requests for public records. They claim the goal is to discourage people from trying to obtain those documents.

Thetoad / Flickr

Some Michiganders may soon be able to have their criminal convictions removed from public records.

People would be able to petition the court that convicted them to remove up to two misdemeanors or one felony. Law enforcement officials would still be able to see the convictions.

Jake Neher / MPRN

A group of semi-truck drivers made some noise Tuesday outside the state Capitol.

Several 18-wheelers circled the building with horns blaring to protest legislation that would increase fines and fees for overweight vehicles. It’s likely to be part of a compromise plan to increase funding to fix Michigan’s roads.

State Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, says too many lawmakers are blaming truckers for poor road conditions.

“What are some of the folks here doing? They’re pointing fingers at them as if they’re the problem – and, ‘Go get ‘em!’ I think they’re frustrated with that and I think they’ve had enough,” said Casperson.

Thetoad / Flickr

Supporters of a religious freedom bill in the state Legislature are pushing back against recent criticism. The legislation is meant to protect religious practices against state and local government interference.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

It appears there hasn’t been much progress toward finding a way to boost state road funding in the Legislature’s “lame duck” session.

Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders met early on Monday to try to get the discussions rolling in the Legislature’s final week in 2014.

user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

The state Senate has approved legislation that would require internet retailers such as Amazon.com to collect a six-percent tax on all sales to people in Michigan.

Supporters say it is unfair to businesses that choose to open brick-and-mortar locations in Michigan that people can avoid paying the tax by shopping online.

Inside the Michigan Senate
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Coercing someone to have an abortion would carry tougher penalties under bills approved by the state Senate on Thursday.

The crime could result in criminal penalties under Senate Bills 1156 and 1157.

State Senator Randy Richardville
Photo courtesy of www.senate.michigan.gov

The state Legislature is taking steps to hammer out a road funding compromise in the final days of its 2014 session.

The House and Senate passed plans that are drastically different. The Senate approved legislation that would essentially double the state’s gas tax to pay for road improvements. The House plan would divert revenues from schools and local governments and would not raise any taxes.

Northwestern University football players sought to organize.
Northwestern University / Athletics

Student athletes at Michigan’s public universities would be banned from unionizing under a bill approved by the state House on Tuesday. House Bill 6074 passed on a party-line vote.

“I don’t think we want to send the message to high school athletes that, gee, we want you to come to college and be a part-time university employee,” said Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, who sponsored the bill.

“We want you to come to college and get a great education. We want you to come to college and get an education that’s going to give you lifetime benefits.”

But state Representative Andy Schor, D-Lansing, points to the fact that there have been no reports of student athletes trying to unionize in Michigan.

user reinistraidas / Flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder will decide whether to extend Michigan’s film credit program through 2021.

The incentives are currently set to expire in 2017. The state Senate gave final legislative approval to the extension Tuesday morning with bipartisan support.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state House has approved bills meant to reduce prison costs in Michigan. But the sponsor of the legislation says the bills have been “gutted.”

State Representative Joe Haveman, R-Holland, says provisions were taken out that would have kept more people out of prison.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr

The state House has approved a bill that would revoke welfare payments from people who fail drug tests. The state would implement the one-year pilot program in three counties that have not yet been selected.

Wikimedia Commons

State lawmakers return to Lansing this week after a two week break for deer hunting and Thanksgiving.

Every Republican and Democratic leader at the state Capitol says fixing Michigan’s roads will be the top priority between now and the end of the year.

“Certainly, the primary focus will be on discovering a solution for funding of transportation in Michigan, specifically roads and bridges that are in desperate need of repair,” said Ari Adler, a spokesperson for state House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall.

Adler says the speaker wants more taxes paid at the pump to go to roads.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers could take up legislation next week meant to keep schools out of deficit.

The legislation would require more reporting from schools that are deemed to be in financial trouble. It could also open up more money in state grants and loans.

State Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, says he’s confident the bills will reach the governor’s desk by the end of the year.

“The more I talk about the process that we’re trying to establish the more support we get,” said Walker.

State Capitol
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It looks like a decision about whether to ease restrictions on medical marijuana will come down to the final days of the state Legislature’s 2014 session.

The state Senate has been debating for almost a year whether to allow dispensaries and edible forms of medical marijuana in Michigan.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says he wants to pass House Bills 4271 and 5104 in December. But he says some groups are still concerned the legislation could lead to more illegal pot sales.

  

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