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

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).

Thetoad / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

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.

Microsoft Images

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.

WKAR

An attorney who’s suing the state over its handling of the Flint water crisis is after a wide array of electronic communications from state officials.

Michael Pitt says that includes all of Gov. Rick Snyder’s e-mails about Flint going back to 2011.

Pitt says he’ll ask a judge to order officials in the executive office and a number of state departments to turn over a wide variety of communications about Flint.

Gov. Rick Snyder
gophouse.com

Republican leaders in the state Senate say a $28 million emergency appropriation for Flint should come with some accountability measures to make sure that money is spent wisely.

The bill flew through the state House with unanimous support the day after Gov. Rick Snyder requested the special funding during his State of the State Address.

The Senate is expected to move swiftly next week to send the money to Snyder’s desk.

State Capitol
user aunt owwee / Flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder is asking the Obama Administration to change its mind and declare a major disaster in Flint.

Snyder requested the declaration in order to free up $96 million in federal aid for Flint.

The Obama Administration said those declarations are used to address natural disasters such as floods or fires.

Snyder argues in a press release announcing the appeal that, “the situation in Flint is a disaster and in need of a federal declaration.”

Max Lorincz and his wife Erica Chittenden outside their home in Spring Lake in Ottawa County. The couple has been fighting to be reunited with their son Dante since Max was charged with possessing synthetic THC – a charge some forensic scientists say is a
Rick Pluta / MPRN

Maxwell Lorincz lives in Spring Lake near Lake Michigan with his wife and their six-year-old son. At least, they did live with their son, until a year and a half ago.

They lost custody of him after Lorincz was charged with a felony for possessing synthetic THC. He’s a card-carrying medical marijuana patient. But that hasn’t helped in his fight to get his son back.

So for now, the family gets unsupervised visits for a few hours every week.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder found himself bombarded with questions about Flint’s water crisis as he toured the North American International Auto Show on Tuesday.

Before the governor could offer opening remarks to reporters about the auto show, reporters began peppering Snyder with Flint-related questions.

Snyder highlighted the state’s ongoing efforts to help Flint residents deal with unsafe drinking water.

Jake Neher / MPRN

Gov. Rick Snyder is adding his voice to those calling for an end to teacher “sickout” protests in the state’s largest school district.

Dozens of Detroit public school buildings have closed this week with teachers staying home, and several more have been forced to close in recent weeks.

Snyder hopes teachers will find other ways to protest state control of Michigan’s largest district, health and safety issues in classrooms, and other problems. He says there are other avenues to call attention to those issues that don’t hurt students.

Thetoad / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Republican state lawmakers are looking into legislation meant to prevent teacher “sickouts” like the ones that closed about 60 Detroit schools on Monday.

Teachers in the state’s largest district say it’s their only way to protest problems in the district – from state control to overcrowded classrooms – because teacher strikes are banned under state law.

“I couldn’t be any more disappointed,” said state Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Twp., who chairs the Senate Education Committee.

DPS

Michigan’s education chief is urging teachers in the state’s largest district to end a recent series of “sickout” protests.

A number of Detroit Public School buildings have been forced to close in recent weeks due to the protests.

State Superintendent Brian Whiston says the sickouts are unfair to students.

Flint water treatment plant
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder and Flint Mayer Karen Weaver are set to meet on Thursday to discuss the city’s water emergency.

The meeting comes two days after Snyder declared a state of emergency in Genesee County due to high lead levels in tap water. That move could lead to a request for federal aid for Flint and its water system, which could be a topic of discussion at the meeting.

Christoper Sessums / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A recent ruling could mean lower rates and refunds for Michigan energy customers.

The initial decision from a federal administrative judge says companies that own transmission lines in several states are overcharging customers.

In Michigan, that could mean customers will see total savings of about $40 million a year, according to an estimate from the group Michigan Citizens Against Rate Excess (CARE).

“Everybody’s going to benefit,” said attorney Robert Strong, who represents industrial customers in Michigan.

Marijuana plant.
USFWS

2016 could bring major changes to the way Michigan treats marijuana.

There are three campaigns hoping to put legalization of recreational marijuana on the November ballot. Two of those groups – who appear to be raising significant money and have been collecting signatures for months – would tax and regulate marijuana for personal use for people 21 and older.

Road in need of repair.
Peter Ito / Flickr

Some Republicans in the state Senate want to throw out the road funding plan lawmakers passed in 2015 and replace it in 2016.

A new proposal in the Senate would repeal a $1.2 billion funding plan that squeaked through the Legislature just a couple months ago. It would instead raise Michigan’s sales tax rate from six percent to seven percent and dedicate all the new revenue to roads.

Handguns.
user Ben Re / Flickr

Gun owners would face harsh penalties for storing guns where minors can access them. That’s under a new bill in the state House.

Twenty House Democrats have signed on to House Bill 5195. Gun owners could face felony charges and get up to five years behind bars and a fine of up to $5,000 if a minor gets hold of a gun and injures or kills someone – including his or herself.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

UPDATED AT 5:37 PM ON 12/29/15

The head of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has resigned over the drinking water crisis in Flint.

Gov. Rick Snyder has also now apologized to the community of Flint for his administration’s involvement in the situation.

“I want the Flint community to know how very sorry I am that this has happened,” said Snyder in a statement on Tuesday. “And I want all Michigan citizens to know that we will learn from this experience, because Flint is not the only city that has an aging infrastructure.”

Michigan State Police

A group of criminal defense attorneys says the Michigan State Police (MSP) should no longer oversee the state crime lab.

“We in Michigan accept the idea we’ve got a Michigan State Police crime lab. That is inherently problematic. But we accept it, because that’s how it is,” said attorney Michael Komorn, who specializes in defending medical marijuana patients.

Komorn and attorney Neil Rockind recently filed a federal complaint against the lab in hopes that it will spark an independent investigation into a new crime lab policy dealing with synthetic THC.

Medical Marijuana
Dank Depot / Creative Commons http://tinyurl.com/oall5zn

Medical marijuana could be a big topic of discussion for state lawmakers in 2016.

Bills in the state Senate would create protections for dispensaries and people who use non-smokable forms of medical marijuana, such as baked items and oils.

Now, Democratic state Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, has introduced a new bill that would ban employers from firing workers for having a medical marijuana card.

Singh says firings have become a problem in many states where medical marijuana is legal.

arcturusangel / morgueFile

A group of mostly Republican state lawmakers is pushing for more oil to be recovered from wells that have already been capped. And they want the state to explore technologies that could capture greenhouse gasses produced during that process.

drtel / Creative Commons

Gov. Rick Snyder has signed bills giving major tax breaks to data centers in Michigan.

All data centers will no longer have to pay sales and use tax. But the new laws are in place in order to lure a single, massive server farm to the Grand Rapids area.

Las Vegas-based company Switch gave the state an end-of-the-year deadline to approve the tax breaks. It has since said it will locate the data center in Michigan.

photojock / morgueFile

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) broke its own rule on road safety studies. That’s according to a new report from the Michigan auditor general’s office.

The self-imposed rule said MDOT must conduct at least one safety study on road projects in every region of the state.

But last fiscal year, the department failed to do a safety study in two of those seven regions. MDOT says that’s because it concentrated the studies on projects that had more importance.

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

The top Democrat in the state House is urging Gov. Rick Snyder to veto controversial election legislation.

One bill would eliminate the straight-ticket voting option on Michigan ballots.

The other makes changes to campaign finance laws that critics say allow more money from outside political groups into elections. Local governments and school leaders are also concerned about a provision in that bill they say would prevent them from answering questions during public meetings leading up to elections.

user clarita / morguefile

About 600,000 Michiganders will be able to stay on the state’s expanded Medicaid program.

The Healthy Michigan plan got a critical waiver approval from the federal government on Thursday.

The part of the program that needed approval requires participants with incomes between 100 and 133 percent of the federal poverty level to work with doctors to get healthier. Otherwise, they will have to get their insurance through the federal health care exchange. That requirement begins in April of 2018.

User: mattileo / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

This is the last week state lawmakers are scheduled to meet in 2015.

Legislative leaders will try to advance bills that would give tax breaks to data centers. The goal is to attract a massive data farm to the Grand Rapids area.

Supporters estimate the project would bring in $5 billion in new investments and at least a thousand jobs to Michigan over the next decade.

But plenty of Republicans and Democrats oppose targeting one industry for big tax exemptions. They say there’s no guarantee the company will create the number of jobs it says it will.

How much does your vote count? Thanks to gerrymandering, it depends on where you live.
Theresa Thompson / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A bill to allow no-reason absentee voting in Michigan could have a tough time in the state Senate.

The state House approved House Bill 4724 late Wednesday night. It also tied the bill to one eliminating the straight-ticket voting option on Michigan ballots. That means one bill can’t become law without the other.

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