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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There’s heated debate over the future of renewable energy policy in Michigan – and it’s not just Democrats versus Republicans.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is criticizing legislation that would put new limits on Michigan’s net metering program. That program allows people with solar panels to sell surplus energy back to the grid.

Rep. Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, and Rep. Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell.
From Courser/Gamrat websites

Early this week, the public will find out the details of a state House investigation into two tea party lawmakers involved in a sex-and-cover-up scandal.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Patients with autism and Parkinson’s disease could use medical marijuana under a new effort to overhaul the system in Michigan.

The Michigan Responsibility Council (MRC) announced this week it will push lawmakers to make the state’s medical marijuana system safer and more accessible to qualified patients.

flickr user Eljoja / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Despite getting the go-ahead from a state board made up largely of physicians, Michigan will not allow autism patients to use medical marijuana.

Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Director Mike Zimmer overturned the board’s recommendation to add autism to the list of qualifying conditions. Zimmer cited a lack of scientific research on the benefits of cannabis for autism patients as well as concerns about effects on children.

Photozou

Michigan cities and counties could soon face skyrocketing telecommunications costs. That’s according to some industry experts and local government groups.

They say special rates from the state that go back decades are expiring. They also point to a new law allowing companies like AT&T to phase out traditional landline service.

Rep. Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, and Rep. Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell.
From Courser/Gamrat websites

State representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat engaged in misconduct and misused taxpayer resources. State House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, says those are preliminary findings of a House Business Office investigation into a sex-and-cover-up scandal involving the lawmakers.

 

Cotter’s office says the full report will be made public after outside legal counsel has a chance to review it.

 

But Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon says the public shouldn’t have to wait.

WFIU Public Radio / Creative Commons

Update, 11:05 p.m.:

The House adjourned late Wednesday night without a vote on a road funding deal after hours of negotiations. The House has adjourned until September.

Original post: 

State House Democrats want to protect Michigan’s prevailing wage law as part of a road funding deal.

Jake Neher / MPRN

A bill that would make major changes to Michigan’s solar power laws is getting some pushback.

The legislation deals with a process called net metering. Right now, that allows people with rooftop solar panels to use the power they generate and sell the rest to their utility. Senate Bill 438 would change that.

Yash Mori / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Michigan Attorney Bill Schuette is endorsing Jeb Bush for president in 2016.

He announced on Wednesday that he’ll serve as chair for Bush’s campaign organization in Michigan.

There’s a hunger out there for Republicans to take back the White House and put the country on the right track,” Schuette told reporters on a conference call.

Marijuana plant.
USFWS

State lawmakers are considering taxing and tracking medical marijuana in Michigan.

Bill sponsors are expected to tack those and other changes onto bills that would create new protections for dispensaries and patients who use non-smokable forms of cannabis.

A state House panel on Tuesday also took up a new bill that would track cannabis from seed to sale.

Jake Neher / MPRN

A former staffer for embattled state representatives Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, and Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell, is speaking out against his former bosses.

Courser and Gamrat are accused of using public resources to cover up an affair. That includes attempting to involve their publicly-funded staff, which they shared at the time.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

State lawmakers return this week from a month-long break with hopes of passing a new road funding plan.

Action on road funding has been stalled since July when lawmakers left Lansing for a month-long break. That’s after after the state House declined to take up legislation that was narrowly approved by the state Senate.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr

The state Senate is one step closer to confirming Gov. Rick Snyder’s appointment of a former Consumers Energy lobbyist to a panel that regulates utilities.

The state Senate Energy and Technology Committee signed off on the appointment of Norm Saari to the Michigan Public Service Commission during an advice and consent hearing on Thursday. 

NWF / screenshot from YouTube video

Enbridge Energy is sponsoring new efforts to monitor waters above its aging pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

Enbridge is working with the Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) out of Michigan Technical University to build and operate a buoy to measure currents in real time. That information will be made available for anyone to view online.

Michigan Department of Education

The new head of the Michigan Department of Education says he’ll act on his own to improve teacher evaluations if lawmakers fail to do so.

The state Senate approved a bill in May meant to improve teacher evaluations and make them more uniform across the state. Senate Bill 103 has since stalled in the state House.

Thomas Hawk / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Gov. Rick Snyder is applauding Michigan’s largest county for moving toward a consent agreement with the state.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans has called for a consent agreement to deal with the city’s troubled finances. The county commission approved that option after a state review team last month found a financial emergency exists and Snyder confirmed that finding.

Wikimedia

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers say they’ll make a major push in the fall to end special property tax discounts for big box stores.

The stores are able to appeal property tax assessments to the Michigan Tax Tribunal to get a more favorable calculation of what they owe.

Jake Neher / MPRN

The state is asking colleges and universities to submit proposals to help prevent campus sexual assaults. It will award $500,000 in grants to help fund programs that are approved.

First Lady Sue Snyder is leading the effort. She detailed the grant process during a press call on Wednesday.

user elioja / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A state board has approved adding autism to the list of conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana. The Michigan Medical Marihuana Review Panel voted 4-2 on Friday to make the recommendation.

The final decision will be made by Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Director Mike Zimmer.

Protesters rallied at the state Capitol on July 30, 2015 demanding that an oil and gas pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac be shut down.
Jake Neher / MPRN

Dozens of protesters rallied at the state Capitol on Thursday against an aging pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

The group delivered a letter addressed to Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette demanding that the pipeline be shut down.

user alkruse24 / Flickr

It’s been almost two-and-a-half years since Michigan’s revamped emergency manager law took effect. Thirteen Michigan cities and five school districts are currently under some form of state oversight.

Now, there are growing doubts about the law’s ability to help schools in financial distress.

Michigan Supreme Court
photo courtesy of the MI Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court dealt two blows to public employee unions on Wednesday.

The court ruled that Michigan’s right-to-work law does apply to state workers. That means they can decline to pay union dues without risking losing their jobs.

Garretttaggs55 / wikipedia commons

Attorneys specializing in marijuana law now have their own division within the State Bar of Michigan.

The state Supreme Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals have had to rule on several cannabis issues since voters approved medical marijuana in 2008.

The chair of the new division says it will make it easier to attorneys to keep track of Michigan’s complex and ever-evolving medical marijuana law. 

U.S. Supreme Court
user dbking / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

  Michigan may have to pay up to $2 million in legal fees related to the case that struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

The six attorneys who successfully challenged the ban want the state to reimburse them for their legal costs. They say they worked thousands of hours on the case – which was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A new bill in the state House would require schools to adopt policies on social media interactions between students and school employees.

Supporters of House Bill 4791 say social media can be a great tool for teachers to communicate with students.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The state House is scheduled to meet one day this week to try and reach a compromise on road funding.

If a deal doesn’t get done on Tuesday, talks may have to wait until the fall. The House is scheduled to begin a month-long break on Wednesday.

Dank Depot / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

  A Democrat in the state House plans to introduce a bill that would decriminalize and regulate marijuana in Michigan.

State Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, says public support for legalization has reached critical mass.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There’s no road funding deal to speak of as state representatives leave Lansing for the week. That means a vote on any plan will have to wait until next week – and possibly until the fall.

It appears Republicans in the state House remain divided on whether a gas tax increase should be part of any plan to boost road funding.

user: Dwight Burdette / Wikimedia Commons

GOP leaders in the state House are working to assemble enough Republican votes to pass a road funding plan that’s likely to raise taxes.

House Republicans met on Tuesday to review a Senate-approved plan that raises the state’s gas tax by 15 cents over three years. It also includes a possible rollback in the state’s income tax rate – but that depends on growth in revenues to the state’s General Fund.

LucasTheExperience / Flickr

An effort is underway put mandatory paid sick leave for all Michigan workers on the November 2016 ballot.

The proposal would require businesses to offer paid leave if a worker or someone in their immediate family is sick. The initiative from the Time to Care Coalition would allow workers to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked.

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