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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Law
10:46 am
Thu July 11, 2013

Challenge to union contract that goes around 'right-to-work' dismissed

Right-to-work protesters outside of the state's Capitol building last December.
user david_shane Flickr

A judge in Wayne County has dismissed a lawsuit challenging a school union contract designed to skirt the Michigan’s new right-to-work law.

The Taylor School District signed a new ten-year agreement with its teachers union after the law was passed and before it went into effect. Three Taylor teachers and the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy sued to have the contract thrown out.

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Politics & Government
10:15 am
Wed July 10, 2013

State lawmaker introduces plan to throw out state income tax

Rep. Bob Genetski
Photo courtesy of Michigan House Republicans gophouse.org

There’s a proposal in Lansing to throw out the state’s income tax. The bill would let voters decide whether to keep the tax or get rid of it.

Republican state Representative Bob Genetski (Allegan County) says he’s heard “a lot” of complaints from his constituents about having to pay state income taxes. That’s especially since the state stopped exempting pensions from the tax last year.

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Politics & Government
10:45 am
Mon July 8, 2013

State lawmakers plan to take up bill to revive medical pot dispensaries

Neeta Lind Flickr

A state House panel is likely to take up a bill soon that would revive medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan. Republican lawmakers are starting to take interest in the issue.

Earlier this year, the Michigan Supreme Court handed down a ruling that effectively stopped most marijuana dispensaries from operating in the state. The court ruled that the dispensaries can be shut down as a public nuisance. Now state lawmakers say they’re close to a deal on legislation that would allow and regulate the facilities.

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Law
10:26 am
Tue July 2, 2013

Governor Snyder signs major overhaul of public defense in Michigan

Governor Rick Snyder joins bill sponsors Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) (right) and Sen. Bruce Caswell (R-Hillsdale) (left) at Monday’s indigent defense bill signing.
Jake Neher

Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation Monday that will make sweeping changes to the state’s public defense system.

Snyder says the new law is a big step toward making sure fewer indigent criminal defendants are wrongfully convicted. It will create a commission to set statewide standards for public defense. The group will also monitor counties to make sure each one is meeting those standards.

The governor says there’s still a lot of work to do before the state can expect to see improvements. He said, “It will take some time to implement this. But this is something we will be very diligent about the follow-through to make sure it happens right.”

The bills passed the state House and Senate last month with bi-partisan support.

Politics & Government
5:08 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Committee to begin work on Michigan Medicaid expansion next week

State Senator Randy Richardville at the state Capitol
Photo courtesy of www.senate.michigan.gov

A state Senate panel is expected to start discussing a bill next week to expand Medicaid in Michigan.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) expects a vote in the full Senate before September.

The Majority Leader has been taking some heat from Governor Rick Snyder since last week.

That’s when Richardville allowed the Senate to leave on its summer recess before taking a vote on Medicaid expansion. But Richardville defended the decision today on the Michigan Public Television program Off the Record.

“I don’t think this legislation is complete. I don’t think we had the votes to get things done that day, and it would have been forcing a less-than-adequate package to his desk,” said Richardville.

The governor says the state stands to lose millions of federal dollars if the legislation isn’t approved soon.

That’s because the plan needs to be approved by Washington – a process that will likely take months. But Richardville said he doesn’t want to rush the legislation if it’s not ready.

"I understand that he has to talk to the federal government, and these waivers are going to be difficult to negotiate," said Richardville. "But I think we’ll have a product for him to look at before July is over."

Richardville says he generally supports the idea of overhauling and expanding Medicaid.

“But we have some other reforms, some other things that we think should be done to make this legislation better. And we need a little time to look at it,” he said.

Meanwhile, a legislative workgroup is also trying to get the bill ready for a vote. The workgroup originally consisted of six Republican senators.

But Richardville now says he plans to add some Democrats to the group as well.

Richardville says he expects to have a proposal in place before August, and a vote of the full Senate before September.

Politics & Government
5:41 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Michigan governor admits a vote on Medicaid expansion next week is unlikely

State's that have adopted Medicaid expansion are in blue.
Avalere Health, LLC

Governor Rick Snyder has he doesn’t expect a vote next week to expand Medicaid in Michigan.

The governor is traveling the state trying to pressure lawmakers to act on the bill.

Governor Snyder wanted the state Senate to approve the Medicaid expansion last week before it adjourned for the summer. Then he said he wanted a vote on July 3 – the next day the Senate could meet.

Now he says a vote absolutely has to happen before fall.

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Politics & Government
10:58 am
Tue June 18, 2013

Tea Party: GOP lawmakers who vote for Medicaid bill should expect primary battles

Tea Party members attend a pre-election rally in Jackson, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Tea Party activists are threatening to put up primary challengers against Republican lawmakers who vote to expand Medicaid in Michigan.

The bill would add hundreds of thousands of Michiganders to the Medicaid rolls under the federal healthcare law.

The legislation cleared the state House last week. The state Senate is likely to take up the legislation this week.

Tea Party groups claim it would be the biggest expansion of state government in more than four decades.  They say Republican votes in favor of the bill warrant a primary challenge next year.

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Politics & Government
10:56 am
Tue June 18, 2013

Governor Snyder meets with Israeli PM on trade mission

Gov. Snyder meets Israeli PM Netanyahu
Rick Snyder @Onetoughnerd Instagram

Governor Rick Snyder sat down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday.

Snyder believes the talks could lead to new partnerships between companies in Michigan and Israel.

The governor is on a nine-day investment mission to Israel. He says the two states already have strong economic and cultural ties. But he says there’s lots of room for new partnerships and investment.

Snyder Spokesperson Ken Silfven says Prime Minister Netanyahu was “very receptive” to the governor’s ideas.

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Politics & Government
4:38 pm
Fri June 14, 2013

Snyder leaves for Israel on a trade mission

Flag of Israel.
Tim (Timothy) Pearce Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder leaves today for a nine-day trade mission to Israel. He’s hoping to create business connections and encourage Israeli investment in Michigan.

But Snyder says he won’t be starting from scratch when he gets there.

“We already do a fair amount of business with Israel. We’re one of the top-20 states for both imports and exports going on with Israel. So I think it’s a great opportunity to build stronger economic ties and cultural ties given all the historical connections between our state and Israel.”

Additionally, the Governor says that Israel is looking to expand its marketplace globally.

“And if you look at Detroit’s role and the strong Jewish community here and the great business environment we’ve created over the last few years, Michigan should really be a gateway – in particular the Metro Detroit area should be a gateway – for Israeli businesses to do business in the United States.”

The governor also plans to speak with Israeli education officials. He says he’s especially interested in learning about their early childhood education programs.

This is Snyder’s fifth corporate-sponsored trip oversees, and his first to the Middle East. 

Politics & Government
9:37 am
Fri June 14, 2013

Medicaid expansion clears state House, goes to Senate

Thomas Anderson Flickr

The state House has approved a plan to overhaul and expand Medicaid in Michigan. The bill passed the House with bipartisan support.

State lawmakers have been debating for months whether to add hundreds of thousands of Michiganders to the Medicaid rolls under the federal healthcare law. It also creates incentives for healthy lifestyles, and would eventually require some Medicaid patients to pay more toward the cost of their healthcare.

Democratic state Representative Brandon Dillon praised Republican House leadership for taking a vote on the bill.

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Politics & Government
11:46 am
Thu June 13, 2013

Legislators in Lansing pass fix to Michigan’s fireworks law

The Parade Company via theparade.org

A bill to fix Michigan’s fireworks law is headed to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk. The state Legislature passed the legislation almost unanimously.

Last year, state lawmakers legalized high powered fireworks for consumer use. That sparked thousands of complaints from across the state about loud blasts into the early morning hours.

Harold Haugh (D-Roseville) is the bill’s sponsor. He says he’s received thousands of complaints about loud blasts into the early morning hours.

"So we tried to take all of the inputs that we could and put it into a common sense approach," explained Haugh. "And obviously with the votes, my colleagues in both the House and Senate – both Democrat and Republican alike – agreed with what we had put together."

The bill would allow local governments to prohibit overnight fireworks use on and around national holidays. Municipalities are already able to restrict fireworks the rest of the year.

Haugh says he expects Governor Snyder to sign the bill in time for July Fourth.

Politics & Government
11:44 am
Thu June 13, 2013

State lawmakers a step closer to approving Medicaid expansion, overhaul

The chamber of Michigan's House of Representatives in Lansing. Leaders in the Michigan legislature and Governor Granholm are close to an agreement on the budget.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are moving forward with a plan to expand Medicaid in Michigan after months of debate. A state House panel approved the measure yesterday, and the full House is expected to vote on it today.

Republicans on the committee were split on the legislation. Many said they were not willing to support legislation that would further entrench the federal Affordable Care Act in Michigan. 

The federal government says it’ll foot the entire bill for Medicaid expansion through 2016, and at least 90 percent after that.

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Economy
5:28 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

Michigan universities producing entrepreneurs faster than national average

U of M's new venture accelerator will connect startups with talent and funding
Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan

Michigan’s three biggest universities are producing young entrepreneurs twice as fast as the national average.

That’s according to a report by East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group released today at a conference of business leaders and politicians on Mackinac Island.

Debbie Dingell is chair of the Wayne State University Board of Governors.

“What’s clear is that we in Michigan have young people with ideas, and we’re giving them a university system that’s giving them the tools that they need to actually go out and start that business,” said Debbie Dingell, chair of the Wayne State University Board of Governors.

The report says almost half of the new businesses started by college grads have been started or acquired in Michigan.

University officials say they’ve revamped their curriculum in recent years to encourage entrepreneurship among students.

Politics & Government
4:01 pm
Wed May 29, 2013

Education budget clears Michigan Legislature, goes to Gov. Snyder's desk

Christopher Webb Flickr

The Michigan Senate has passed a budget bill that would boost state funding to public schools by about 3%. Universities and colleges would also get a roughly 2% increase.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R- Monroe) praised the schools budget, saying it addresses issues like teacher retirement costs while giving more money to districts.

“The education budget this year may be the best that I’ve seen since I’ve been up here,” said Richardville.

But many Democrats say the plan does not do enough to make up for cuts to education over the past couple of years.

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Politics & Government
10:36 am
Wed May 29, 2013

More money for schools and local governments?

Are lawmakers opening up the purse strings?

State lawmakers are getting close to wrapping next year’s budget. The state House has passed bills to fund schools and state government through next fiscal year.

Public School Funding

Every school would see at least a five-dollar per-pupil boost. Schools getting the minimum amount from the state could receive up to $60 more per student.
    
Democratic state Representative Brandon Dillon says he’s happy no schools will see cuts in state support, but he says it still doesn’t come close to adequately funding public schools.

"You know, it’s better than last year," he said. "But our standards for excellence in school funding have diminished significantly. And it’s still not enough to educate kids, especially kids in high poverty, high needs districts, and our urban districts."

Democrats are also criticizing the bill for cutting funds that would go toward implementing the federal Common Core curriculum standards in schools.

They say those funding cuts put Michigan schools at risk of losing federal dollars.

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Politics & Government
5:08 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Lawmakers seek to shorten the amount of time to stop a bank foreclosure

A foreclosed house in Michigan.
Rebecca Williams The Environment Report

Opponents of a plan to change the foreclosure process in Michigan say it would put more people out of their homes and hurt property values.

They were in Lansing today to protest a package of bills in the state Legislature.

The legislation would shorten the amount of time homeowners have to stop a bank foreclosure from six months to two months.

Ingham County Register of Deeds Curtis Hertel Jr. says banks have wrongly foreclosed on thousands of properties across the state.

He says it often takes months for people to prove they don’t deserve to lose their home.

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Education
3:14 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Michigan public schools could get a funding boost

School work
Jane M Sawyer morgue file

Michigan public schools would get a three-percent overall funding boost under a plan in the state Legislature.

It comes up for final votes next week.

No school would get less money per student than it did last year under a plan approved by a state budget panel.

Lawmakers added language that would guarantee every school gets at least five dollars more per student than last year. Without that provision, some schools could have seen cuts because of reduced payments to cover teacher retirement costs. 

Schools that get the minimum amount of state funding right now could see up to $60 more per student next fiscal year. That total amount is right around $7,000 per student.

The bill now goes to the floors of the state House and Senate.

Education
5:13 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Performance pay for teachers moves forward in state House

The state House.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

A state House panel has approved a plan to tie teachers’ pay to student performance. But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they’re worried the bill would strip away local control.

Bill supporters say just because someone has been teaching for a long time, that doesn’t mean they’re a great teacher. They say educators should be paid more if their students are making progress, and less if they’re not.

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Environment & Science
5:07 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Wolf hunt law headed for 2014 ballot

USFWS Flickr

A referendum to let voters decide the fate of a law that allows wolf hunts in northern Michigan will appear on the November 2014 ballot.

The campaign’s petitions to get on the ballot were certified today by a state elections board.

Jill Fritz leads the campaign Keep Michigan Wolves Protected.

"We’re going to start our educational campaign to get the issue out there and educate the voters about the issue, and look forward to seeing the people of Michigan speak out against wolf hunting and trapping in the November-2014 election," Fritz said.

The ballot campaign still has to make a decision on what to do about a second law that allows the state to establish wolf hunts, including one to be held in November of this year.

It was passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Rick Snyder after the petition drive was launched earlier this year.

Fritz says a lawsuit is not out of the question.

The law was passed as a way to help control wolves that have moved into populated parts of the western U.P.

Education
10:29 am
Wed May 22, 2013

New student safety hotline aims to stop school violence before it happens

user BES Photos Flickr

State officials say students need new and better ways to report threats of school violence. Officials plan to create a new anonymous tip-line that would include a mobile app for tech-savvy teens.

The program would let students send in tips by phone, text message, email, or the mobile app - which accepts photos and videos.

They call “OK-2-SAY”.

Michigan State Police Director Kriste Etue says it’s crucial to remove as many barriers as possible for teens with possibly life-saving information.

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