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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Education
10:02 am
Thu February 20, 2014

Michigan ending its exclusive contract with the EAA

O.k., o.k., we know this one is empty, but some high school students in the Detroit Public Schools say their classroom are far from empty.
User Motown31 Creative Commons

The Michigan Department of Education will end its exclusive contract with the Education Achievement Authority to oversee some of the state's lowest-performing schools.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan has sent a letter to the EAA notifying it that the contract will be terminated a year from now.

The MDE says it still intends to use the EAA to turn around struggling schools. It says ending the contract will simply open up more options to other entities that can oversee the schools.

The EAA currently runs 15 schools in Detroit. 

Martin Ackley is a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education.

"There are situations where a struggling school may be better served by a neighboring school district or the local intermediate school district as opposed to the EAA."

Ackley says the state still intends to use the EAA to help oversee struggling schools. He says ending the contract will simply give state education officials more options.

"Now, this is in no way a statement or an indication of alack of confidence in the EAA or its academic strategies. This is just an action that needed to be taken in order to provide flexibility and to provide options other than the EAA in which to place these most struggling schools."

Critics of the EAA say it's struggling with declining enrollment, finances, and school safety. Lawmakers are considering legislation that would bolster the authority and allow it to expand it statewide. 

Law
8:30 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Emergency road funding could be coming after nasty winter

It's looking like lawmakers will OK an extra $100 million in emergency road repairs
Wikimedia Commons

A monster pothole season is upon us – and state lawmakers say they want to help.

A state Senate panel on Tuesday added $100 million for road repairs and maintenance to a mid-year budget bill to help communities fix potholes and plow roads.

Lawmakers say local governments need the help to offset the costs of constant snow removal and efforts to fix potholes caused by the nasty winter weather.

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Law
8:27 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

State lawmakers consider year-round schools

Lawmakers are looking for ways to incentivize year-round calendars.
User Motown31 Creative Commons

Some at-risk schools in Michigan could soon get more state funding if they agree to go year-round. A state House panel heard testimony on the idea Tuesday.

In his budget address this month, Gov. Rick Snyder called for a state pilot program to encourage year-round schooling. School districts could get money to add air conditioning and other upgrades to old buildings so they could operate during the summer.

Supporters of the measure say students lose a lot of what they learn during the school year after long summer breaks.

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Politics & Government
8:24 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Landlords could ban tenants from smoking or growing medical marijuana under bill

A bill in Lansing would let landlords give medical marijuana users the boot.
USFWS

Some Michigan medical marijuana patients and caregivers could soon be banned from smoking or growing cannabis where they live.

A state Senate panel approved a bill on Tuesday that would let landlords decide whether to allow tenants to grow or smoke medical marijuana.

“We’ve had a lot of apartment owners that have people smoking marijuana or growing marijuana, doing damage to the apartments, creating danger for other residents,” said state Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, who introduced the legislation.

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Environment & Science
5:55 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

Lawmakers question $18 billion price tag to protect Great Lakes

Will it really take 25 years and $18 billion to protect the Lakes?
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

State lawmakers want to know whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is inflating the cost and time it would take to keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes.

Army Corp officials will face questions from legislators Tuesday about a report it released last month.

It says separating the lakes from the Mississippi River would take more than two decades and up to $18 billion to complete.

Many state officials and environmental groups say separating the two watersheds is the best way to prevent Asian carp and other species from moving into the Great Lakes.

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Politics & Government
5:03 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

'Right to work' bill for lawyers delayed while court reviews State Bar membership

The capitol building
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are holding off on a bill that would allow attorneys to end their membership with the State Bar of Michigan. That’s happening while a state Supreme Court task force reviews whether mandatory State Bar membership is appropriate.

Some are calling Senate Bill 743 a “right to work” bill for lawyers.

The sponsor of the legislation is applauding the court’s decision to weigh in.

“Because it’s better suited to be handled by the Supreme Court – the Bar is underneath their jurisdiction – they should look at those questions,” said Sen. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive. “I’m glad that I prompted them to ask the question, but that’s why I did it.”

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Politics & Government
5:20 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

State prison chief: Escape 'had nothing to do with' budget cuts

Michigan Department of Corrections Director Dan Heyns testifies in front of a state Senate budget panel Thursday on a recent prisoner escape in Ionia.
Jake Neher MPRN

The head of the state’s prison system blames a murderer’s recent escape from an Ionia prison largely on human error. That prisoner escaped earlier this month, and was caught in Indiana the next day.

Democrats want to know whether budget cuts had a role in the escape.  

Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) Director Dan Heyns told a state Senate budget panel Thursday that the prison had all the resources, equipment, and procedures it needed to prevent the escape.

Heyns says the blame falls on him and his department – not on the governor and state lawmakers.

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Education
6:30 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

State Board of Education tries to make school funding a central election issue

The debate over school funding is ramping up.
Thomas Favre-Bulle Flickr

The Michigan State Board of Education hopes public school funding will be a top priority for voters when they head to the polls in November.

The board on Tuesday kicked off a series of discussions meant to publicly critique the way the state pays for public education. The talks will continue at its monthly meetings until November.

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Politics & Government
8:19 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

Wolf hunt opponents challenge Michigan law limiting who can circulate petitions

Gary Kramer USFWS

A group hoping to end wolf hunting in Michigan says a law banning out-of-state petition circulators is unconstitutional. It filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court challenging the law.

Right now, only Michigan residents are allowed to collect signatures for ballot campaigns and voter initiatives.

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Politics & Government
6:09 am
Sat February 8, 2014

President Obama signs farm bill at Michigan State University

“A jobs bill, an innovation bill, an infrastructure bill, a conservation bill, a research bill. It’s like a Swiss Army knife,” said Obama, highlighting that the legislation is about more than just farming."
Rick Pluta MPRN

About 500 people packed a Michigan State University campus hall Friday to witness President Barack Obama sign the new federal farm bill.

The event capped years of negotiations and some tough compromises with Congress on the complex legislation. President Obama said he’s always glad to return to Michigan to cheer the auto industry recovery. Now, he says, it’s time to do the same for agriculture and rural America.

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Law
10:51 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Bills to curb animal abuse advance in Lansing

morguefile

Legislation meant to crack down on animal abuse in Michigan is one step closer to becoming law.

A state House panel approved bills Thursday that would ban convicted animal abusers from adopting an animal for five years. The legislation would also give animal shelters free access to a state database they could use to run background checks.

State Rep. Harvey Santana, D-Detroit, is spearheading the effort in the House.

“It just says, for the state of Michigan, we are a leader in the nation when it comes to how we approach the humanity of dealing with animals,” said Santana.

The legislation now goes to the full state House.

Politics & Government
10:45 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Lawmakers kick off budget debate, consider student loan tax credit

Michigan Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Thetoad Flickr

Debate over the state budget is underway in Lansing.

State lawmakers held their first budget hearings Thursday, a day after Governor Rick Snyder laid out his plan to fund state government into next year.

One of the first issues being discussed comes from a Democrat. The proposal from state Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, would give recent college graduates a tax break for staying in Michigan.

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Politics & Government
5:01 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Snyder spending plan proposes more money for schools, universities, local governments

Budget Director John Nixon, Gov. Rick Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley deliver the administration’s 2014-15 spending proposal to state lawmakers.
Rick Pluta MPRN

Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal calls for more money for schools, universities, and local governments. The governor presented his budget proposal Wednesday before a joint hearing of the state House and Senate appropriations committees. He says the plan is a frugal budget, but it makes badly needed investments.

“The investments are working that we’ve made over the past few years,” said Snyder. “They’ve been strong investments, good investments, but let’s finish the job we’ve started.” 

The governor also called for an election year tax break.

A homestead property tax credit – that could be claimed against last year’s taxes – would target more than a million low- and middle-income families. The governor says it would send help to taxpayers that need it the most. 

He also asked for more money for roads, healthcare, early childhood education, and law enforcement – as well as a large deposit in the state’s “rainy day” savings.

The budget proposal was met with mixed reactions from school groups, local governments, and Democrats.

Many public school officials in Michigan say the 3% funding boost is helpful. But they say it’s not nearly enough to offset years of inadequate funding from the state. And they it’s not clear how much of that money will have to go to things like teacher retirement costs.

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Law
6:18 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

State House passes bill denying juvenile lifers sentenced before 2012 shot at parole

Still Burning Flickr

So-called “juvenile lifers” in Michigan would not get a chance at parole under a bill approved Tuesday by the state House. That’s unless the Michigan Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court rule otherwise.

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Education
5:50 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

State supt. pans plan to hold back 3rd graders

Michigan’s top education official is panning legislation that would automatically hold back third graders who fail a state reading test.

“You don’t automatically retain kids. That’s just insane,” said state Superintendent Mike Flanagan. “This is up to teachers and parents together.”

Flanagan was speaking on the Michigan Public Television program “Off the Record.”

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Politics & Government
4:46 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Wage hike unlikely in Legislature; ballot drive likely

user cedarbenddrive Flickr

Legislation to raise Michigan’s minimum wage is not likely to go anywhere in 2014.

Republican leaders in the state House and Senate are not eager to take up bills to raise it above $7.40 an hour.

“It’s a firm ‘no’ for me,” said Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe. “I think that individual CEOs of companies in Michigan should make those decisions based on the marketplace, not some arbitrary law.”

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Environment & Science
8:20 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Environmental groups divided over possible tax break for oil and gas companies

morguefile

Oil and gas companies in Michigan could soon get a tax break for better utilizing wells, and the proposed measure is causing a split among environmental groups in the state.

A state House panel held its first hearing Tuesday on a bill meant to encourage companies not to abandon oil and gas wells once they’re no longer profitable. Supporters of the legislation say it is meant to encourage an extraction method that pumps carbon dioxide into older or low-producing wells to get relatively small amounts of oil out.

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Law
8:48 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Bill would require candidates to declare felonies

The state House could vote soon on a measure to require political candidates to reveal felony convictions that occurred within the prior 10 years.   

The bill would require candidates to indicate the convictions when they file to run for office. Convictions that are expunged or sealed by a court order would be exempt.

State Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Twp., sponsored the bill. 

“We’re trying to make sure the electorate knows who we are, and we’re being transparent,” said Kesto, a former prosecutor. “Because when it comes to criminal activity, it comes to the integrity of certain individuals who are the candidates, and we should be held to a higher standard.”

Kesto says the measure is not aimed at anyone in particular. However, there is a House Democrat, state Rep. Brian Banks, D-Detroit, whose eight felonies for fraud remained a secret until late in his primary campaign.

Politics & Government
7:36 pm
Sun January 26, 2014

Governing Michigan – a part-time job?

The Michigan State House (file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan voters could see a question on the November ballot this year asking them to make the state Legislature part-time.

The Committee to Restore Michigan’s Part-Time Legislature has turned in petition language to the state Bureau of Elections.

“This is about actually taking a Legislature that’s been pretty much dominated by lobbyists and getting them back into a citizen-driven ideology,” said the group’s chair, Norman Kammeraad, on the Michigan Public Television program “Off the Record.”

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Politics & Government
4:47 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

'Right-to-work' bill for lawyers introduced in Lansing

Credit Thetoad / Flickr

Attorneys would no longer be required to pay membership dues to the State Bar of Michigan, under a new bill in Lansing.

In 2012, the state made it illegal to require workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, making Michigan the 24th right-to-work state.

State Sen. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, introduced a bill today that would extend that same idea to lawyers. He says the State Bar has become a political organization, and its members should also have the choice to leave.

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