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.

Pages

Stateside
5:17 pm
Mon March 11, 2013

Michigan's 'Rainy Day Fund' may get a boost

The Michigan State Capitol in Lansing.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Budget Stabilization Fund – more commonly known as the “Rainy Day Fund” is getting a lot of attention in Lansing.

The Budget Stabilization Fund is more simply known as the state’s savings account.  

When Governor Rick Snyder took office, Michigan's savings account was nearly empty and only held about $2 million.

Now, there’s about half a billion dollars in the fund, and Snyder wants to add $75 million more this year.

While Snyder has been in office, he has been trying to build up the fund, which he says would help improve the state’s credit rating and allow Michigan to get better interest rates. Additionally, there would be money available to protect against huge budget cuts in emergency situations.

What's the significance of Snyder’s efforts, and how might the sequester affect the Budget Stabilization Fund?

Listen to the audio above to hear the story.

Politics & Government
10:04 am
Mon March 4, 2013

Battle lines drawn in Lansing over dredging

How should Michigan pay for dredging?
Andrew McFarlane Flickr

A battle over how to pay for emergency harbor dredging is brewing in Lansing. State Senator John Moolenaar (R-Midland) is sponsoring a bill that would explicitly identify harbor dredging as a proper use of  funding from the state's National Resources Trust Fund.

He says, “when it comes to recreational access to use our tremendous assets that we have in Michigan, we believe this is consistent, but we wanted to spell it out in state law.”

Environmental groups are criticizing the plan.  They say it would threaten the state’s ability to buy and improve parks and public land.

Hugh McDiarmid of the Michigan Environmental Council admits record-low water levels in the Great Lakes mean emergency dredging is necessary. But he says there are better ways to pay for it than raiding the Natural Resources Trust Fund. 

“Diverting money to dredge harbors,” he says, “would hurt communities around the state who wouldn’t have that money available for their parks and their recreational facilities.”

McDiarmid adds long-term harbor maintenance costs could drain the fund completely.  “Maybe purchasing land to create a new harbor would be a more appropriate use of the trust fund”, he says. “You know, some big investment like that rather than routine maintenance that would bleed the trust fund every year, and really should come from another source.”

Governor Rick Snyder is asking for more than $20 million for emergency harbor dredging in his proposed budget. That money would not come out of the Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Health
3:55 pm
Wed February 27, 2013

State House panel votes to accept federal dollars to set up health care exchange

Lester Graham Michigan Radio

A bill to set up a healthcare exchange in Michigan has passed its first hurdle in the state Legislature. A House panel today voted to accept more than $30 million from Washington to set up the exchange.

It would be a partnership between the state and the federal government under the Affordable Care Act.

House Appropriations Chair Joe Haveman says the alternative would be a federal exchange with no state control.

“Although it may appear like it was a step in the wrong direction or endorsing Obamacare, this was the conservative vote. The other vote was the liberal vote to say ‘we want the federal government to take us over.’”

Governor Rick Snyder wanted an exchange run entirely by the state. But lawmakers did not act in time, and that’s now off the table.

The bill now goes to the floor of the state House.

Politics & Government
10:35 am
Mon February 25, 2013

Michigan Republicans: 'All or nothing' is wrong for electoral system

State Rep. Pete Lund (R-Shelby Township) is hoping to change how Michigan votes for President.
gophouse.com

Michigan Republicans said this weekend they want to change the course of future presidential races by changing how the state allocates its electoral votes.

Delegates to the state Republican convention voted overwhelmingly to support the proposal.

Michigan Republicans want to join Nebraska and Maine to become the third state to portion out electoral votes by congressional district.

Read more
Law
3:49 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

State House panel moves to keep legal blood alcohol limit at .08

State House panel moved to keep legal blood alcohol limit at .08
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Bills to keep Michigan’s legal blood alcohol limit for drivers at point-zero-eight are getting little to no opposition in the state Legislature. A House panel today unanimously approved the legislation.

Without it, the state’s legal limit would revert to .10 in October. That’s when the law that sets it at .08 expires.

Republican state Representative Andrea LaFontaine says it’s common sense legislation.

Read more
Law
4:58 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

State House approves bill to add more people to sex offender registry

Michigan State Police

People convicted of crimes such as possessing child pornography and indecent exposure might soon be added to the state’s public sex offender registry.

Lawmakers in the state House today voted overwhelmingly in favor of the legislation.

Democratic state Representative Jeff Irwin was one of only three votes against it. He admits it’s not a popular position to take.

Read more
Politics & Government
7:23 pm
Mon February 18, 2013

State Senate leader looks to expand Michigan's film tax credits

The state Senate’s top Republican says he’ll once again try to ward off big cuts to Michigan’s film industry credits.

For the second year in a row, Governor Rick Snyder is proposing a budget that would cap the state’s film incentives at $25 million for the year.

And for the second year in a row, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he’ll fight to give the industry at least twice that.

“To that particular industry and to the mostly blue collar workers that benefit from that in Michigan, it would be devastating to them,” says Richardville.

Read more
Environment & Science
10:47 am
Fri February 15, 2013

State Senate approves bear cub petting zoos

beingmyself flickr

A bill to let people hold, pet, and take pictures with bear cubs has passed the state Senate. The measure would allow an Upper Peninsula bear ranch to continue to offer the experience. It would let the public handle bears up to 36 weeks old or less than 90 pounds.

Senator Rebekah Warren voted against the bill.

She says lawmakers should put residents’ safety ahead of the financial benefit of a single business.

Read more
Economy
2:31 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Increasing minimum wage in Michigan

State Senator Bert Johnson (D-Detroit).
Bert Johnson

A bill in the state Legislature would boost Michigan’s minimum wage from $7.40 an hour to $10 an hour.

It was introduced just a day after President Obama called for a federal minimum wage increase in his State of the Union address.

Under the proposal, higher wages would be phased in until 2016. After that, the state’s minimum wage would be tied to inflation.

State Senator Bert Johnson (D-Detroit) says Michiganders can’t get by on $7.40 an hour.

“It’s time that we support workers, support women, support people who are just making it so they can make more,” said Johnson.

“I had no advanced notice of what the President would talk about in his speech yesterday, so I didn’t know this was going to be a priority of his,” he said. “I’m glad that his speech dovetails an introduction so important like this, because it really crystalizes the issue at not just a state level but also the federal level.”

The bill isn’t likely to get far in the Republican-controlled state Senate. Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he’s not on board.

“Wages and who is going to get what wage is best determined in the marketplace,” said Richardville.

The last time the state increased its minimum wage was in 2008.

Environment & Science
1:41 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Lawmakers seek to tap Michigan's 'Rainy Day Fund' for Great Lakes dredging

A dredge operating outside of the harbor in Leland, Michigan.
Andrew McFarlane Flickr

Some lawmakers in Lansing want to tap the state’s “rainy day” fund to pay for emergency harbor dredging in the Great Lakes.

A group of Republican state Senators today endorsed opening up $30 million from the fund for projects around the state.

They also offered a number of ways to fund future dredging projects.

State Senator Geoff Hansen (R-Hart) says a short-term solution isn’t enough to address record-low water levels in the Great Lakes.

“These are designed to be long-term solutions. We have the one-time, right now fix. And in the end of the day we need to have enough dollars to make that this year we’re keeping our ports open,” said Hansen.

Governor Snyder set aside over $20 million in his proposed budget for emergency dredging. That money would not come out of the state’s savings.

The lawmakers say their plan is meant to supplement Snyder’s proposal, not replace it.

Politics & Government
4:41 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

Abortion language that sunk Blue Cross overhaul reintroduced

Michigan Senator Mark Jansen
sentate.michigan.gov/gop

State lawmakers have re-introduced legislation that would limit the ability of insurance companies to cover abortions.

The measure would only allow insurers to cover elective abortions through optional rider plans.

Republican state Senator Mark Jansen says many people do not want that kind of coverage automatically included in their plans.

“If I’m an employee, and this is the big issue nationally, why should I be paying for something that seems to be something that many of us morally disagree with?”

The measure was included in legislation last year that sought to overhaul Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Governor Rick Snyder vetoed that bill because he thought the abortion language went too far. He said it’s not the state’s job to decide what kinds of plans insurance companies can offer.

The Blue Cross legislation has also been reintroduced without the abortion language. It passed unanimously in the state Senate last week.

Politics & Government
10:41 am
Tue February 5, 2013

Group calls for acceptance of Medicaid expansion in Michigan

A trade group is challenging Michigan's new health claims tax.
Adrian Clark Flickr

Advocates for the uninsured are pressing Governor Rick Snyder to call for an expansion of Medicaid in Michigan. They delivered more than 4,000 petition signatures in favor of an expansion to the governor’s office yesterday.

Under the federal healthcare law, the state could let nearly 400,000 uninsured residents join the program. The federal government would cover the cost for three years. After that, the state would be responsible for up to ten percent. 

Liz Lamoste, with the group Medicaid Matters for Michigan, says the state should take advantage of the offer.

“If the offer’s on the table, we should be in a position to take advantage of it, especially because it makes financial sense for Michigan, and hundreds of thousands of people are relying on us to take prudent responsible action to provide people with more coverage," said Lamoste.

Many Republicans in the Legislature say they don’t trust the federal government to keep its promises. Governor Snyder will announce his plans for Medicaid on Thursday when he unveils his new proposed budget.

Politics & Government
5:06 pm
Thu January 31, 2013

State Senate unanimously passes Blue Cross overhaul without abortion language

Wikipedia

The state Senate Thursday unanimously passed an overhaul of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

The measure was unexpectedly vetoed by Governor Rick Snyder last month because it included some controversial abortion language. Lawmakers recently reintroduced the legislation without the abortion measure.    

State Senator Joe Hune said he expects it to take longer for the bills to get through the House.

Read more
Politics & Government
12:16 pm
Thu January 31, 2013

Michigan House Repubs 'skeptical' of Medicaid expansion

If Governor Rick Snyder decides he wants to expand Medicaid in Michigan, state House Republicans say they might not be on board.

State House Speaker Jase Bolger says he’s “cautiously skeptical” about the idea of expanding Medicaid.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, the state has to decide whether to let more people into the program. If it does, Washington will pay for the expansion for the first three years.
    
Bolger says he’s not yet convinced.

“The federal government has quite a history of dangling carrots and abandoning states and leaving them to pay for those things.”

Governor Snyder says he wants to make sure health care providers in the state can handle an influx of hundreds-of-thousands of people into the program.
    
He’s expected to address his plans for a possible Medicaid expansion when he gives his budget proposal next week.

Politics & Government
5:46 pm
Wed January 30, 2013

Bolger says state lawmakers need to 'step back' and 'take a breath' on gun debate

Jase Bolger Facebook.com

State House Speaker Jase Bolger says lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should not overreact when it comes to the debate over gun control.    

Lawmakers have already introduced several gun-related bills since their new session started this month.

Many are reactions to recent massacres and the federal gun control proposals that followed.       

Bolger said he hopes discussions about guns will be civil as the bills make their way through committee.

Read more
Politics & Government
5:46 pm
Wed January 30, 2013

State House Republicans say they’ll go forward with plan to split electoral votes

Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

State House Republican leaders say they have no plans to scrap discussions about splitting Michigan’s Electoral College votes between congressional districts.         

Both Governor Rick Snyder and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville have said they’re not on board with the idea. Snyder says it would be better to consider changes closer to the next census, when congressional lines are re-drawn.

But House Speaker Jase Bolger said there’s no reason to wait that long.

Read more
Politics & Government
5:41 pm
Tue January 29, 2013

Clergy call on state lawmakers to address gun violence

Michigan clergy members pray at thestate Capitol while holding cards with the names of children killed by gunviolence

A group of Michigan clergy wants state lawmakers to drop a number of pro-gun bills.

Faith leaders held a prayer service today at the state Capitol to protest the measures. Clergy members sang hymns as they marched to the Capitol.

Each held a yellow card with the name of a child from their community killed by gun violence.

“We’re going to fill the heavens, the atmosphere with prayers," said Flint pastor Ken Boykins. "We mean business. We’re not going to back off. And something has to be done.”

Read more
Politics & Government
5:34 pm
Tue January 29, 2013

State leaders question plan to divide Michigan’s electoral votes

Governor Snyder said a plan to split Michigan's Electoral College votes should not be considered at this time.
Office of Governor Rick Snyder Wikimedia Commons

Two top Republicans in Lansing say they’re not on board with a plan to split Michigan’s Electoral College votes.

Lawmakers have been expecting a bill that would divide the state’s electoral votes by congressional district.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said that would make the state less important in presidential elections.

“At this point in time, I’m still sticking to my guns. I think the bigger package of votes for the winner brings more attention to the state and keeps us united. So I haven’t been convinced otherwise yet,” Richardville said.

Read more
Politics & Government
10:29 am
Tue January 29, 2013

Michigan leaders still weighing expansion of Medicaid

Governor Snyder signed a law aimed at protecting doctor's if they say "I'm sorry" after a failed medical procedure.
user the consumerist Flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder says he hasn’t decided yet whether he wants the state to expand Medicaid eligibility.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, the state has to decide whether to let more people qualify for Medicaid. If it does, the federal government will pay the costs of an expansion for the first three years.

Gov. Snyder says he still needs to get a clear idea of what that would mean for the state.

“I want to make sure we have access and high quality care if we’re to look into something like that, and say, ‘What’s the net cost to all of us?’”

Snyder also says he wants to make sure health care providers can accommodate adding hundreds of thousands of people to the program.

“The key issue on the Medicaid expansion that I want to do some research on, among others, is do we have enough capacity to put essentially 400,000 more people into a medical home model with a primary care environment, as opposed to having them simply go to an ER?”

Snyder also says he wants to make sure health care providers can accommodate adding hundreds of thousands of people to the program.

A possible expansion of Medicaid in Michigan will be a key part of Governor Rick Snyder’s budget address to state lawmakers next week.

A bill in the Senate would *prohibit* the state from expanding Medicaid. Supporters of the bill say it doesn’t make financial sense. They say there are better options for expanding coverage.

Politics & Government
4:25 pm
Mon January 28, 2013

Gov. Snyder says low water levels in Great Lakes require emergency action

NOAA

Governor Rick Snyder says emergency actions are necessary to address low water levels in the Great Lakes.

The lakes are at their lowest levels in decades.

Snyder says that could be a big threat to Michigan’s harbors.

“There’s going to be a need to do some, what I would describe as emergency dredging, to make sure we keep it open for commerce, for tourism, for many other issues. And that’s something we need to be discussing,” Snyder said.

Read more

Pages