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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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Blue Cross Blue Shield would undergo major changes under proposed legislation.
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.

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.

House Speaker Jase Bolger.
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.

At the Republican National Convention.
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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

Neeta Lind / Flickr

Dozens of people showed up in Lansing Friday to urge the state to allow medical marijuana use for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The state Bureau of Health Care Services held a meeting to collect public comment on adding PTSD to a list of allowable conditions.        

Marte Hughson is a former emergency room nurse. She said she’s been using marijuana medicinally since she was forced to leave her job and move from her home in Flint.

user Joshuashearn / wikimedia commons

The first bill passed this year by the Michigan Senate would change the state’s definition of a “federally-licensed firearms dealer”.

Supporters of the measure say it’s just a technical fix to make state law consistent with federal regulations.

The bill passed easily Thursday with bi-partisan support. But a handful of Democrats voted against it.

State Senator Rebekah Warren said it’s a way to exempt more gun dealers from state regulations.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A state Senate panel has sent three gun-related bills to the Senate floor.

One bill would exempt guns made, sold, and kept in Michigan from federal regulations. It’s a reaction to recent gun control proposals from the Obama Administration.

Democratic state Senator Steve Bieda voted against the bill. He said it worries him that even some supporters of the measure admit it might not be constitutional.

Lawmakers are getting ready to consider changes to the state’s no-fault auto insurance law.

At the same time a court battle over a fund that reimburses auto insurance companies for large claims continues.

When you file a personal injury claim in Michigan of more than a half-million dollars, your auto insurance company gets reimbursed by a state-created fund. It’s basically an insurance policy for insurers.

The fund that pays those reimbursements is facing a lawsuit that says it should provide more information about how it comes up with an annual fee that ultimately gets passed on to drivers. It’s appealing a circuit court decision saying that information is subject to public information requests.

Pete Kuhnmuench is with the Insurance Institute of Michigan, which supports the appeal.

“Literally 90 percent of what was required to be disclosed under the judge’s recent ruling is already out there for public consumption,” Kuhnmuench said.

Plaintiffs in the case say lawmakers need a complete picture as they weigh proposals to change the state’s no-fault law.

JMR Photography / Flickr

A bill in Lansing would exempt some information about gun owners and their firearms from Freedom of Information Act requests.

Among other things, the measure would exempt information from pistol license applications and from a database that tracks pistol histories.         

The legislation is a reaction to a New York state newspaper that recently published information about registered gun owners in the area. Many gun owners were outraged by the move, saying it opened them to harassment.         

Michigan Municipal League / flickr

Michigan’s legislature would only serve part-time under a measure in the state Senate.

Starting in 2015, lawmakers would only meet in regular session up to 90 days a year. They could have special sessions to address emergencies.

Republican state Senator John Proos is sponsoring the legislation. He said it would force state lawmakers to work more efficiently.

“Ultimately it saves taxpayers money and decreases the overall size of government. I think that those are good, laudable efforts as we try to reform state government,” Proos said.

www.isleroyalewolf.org

An animal welfare group has the green light to start collecting signatures in its attempt to stop a new law opening Michigan to a wolf hunt.

On Thursday, a state board approved petitions drafted by the group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected.

Michael Hodge is their attorney. He said there is no evidence that wolves are a problem in the Upper Peninsula.

“So it’s a hunting season for trophy hunters who want to kill an animal that just basically reappeared in the state of Michigan in recent years,” said Hodge.

michigandems.com

A day before Governor Rick Snyder gives his third State of the State address, state Democrats voiced a laundry list of criticisms of Snyder and Republican lawmakers.

State House Minority Leader Tim Greimel talked on Tuesday about what he calls the “Real State of the State”.

He said Michigan Republicans have given corporations too many breaks at the expense of middle-class families.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Senator Debbie Stabenow is asking Michigan leaders in agriculture to push Congress to pass a new farm bill.

Stabenow spoke to the Michigan Agri-Business Association at its annual conference in Lansing Tuesday.

Stabenow chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee. She vowed not to compromise on policies important to Michigan farmers as lawmakers write a new bill.

www.michigan.org

Governor Rick Snyder says he would not have tied the Pure Michigan brand so closely with the state’s controversial right-to-work law in a recent ad.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has been taking criticism for the ad, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

It promotes right-to-work alongside a logo for the state’s popular tourism campaign.

Governor Snyder said he thinks the message was too specific, and possibly divisive.

Peter Ito / flickr

Governor Rick Snyder says he’ll outline a new plan to fund road improvements during his State of the State address on Wednesday.

The plan could include higher vehicle registration fees to pay for road projects and maintenance.        

Advocates for more state road funding say spending has not kept up with costs. State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have said Michigan’s road system needs more help. But they have not been able to agree on ways to pay for maintenance and improvements.         

Ifmuth / Flickr

One day into their new session, state lawmakers already have an influx of bills to consider.

One resolution in the state Senate seeks to effectively end so-called “lame duck” sessions. On even-numbered years, Lawmakers would be barred from holding regular sessions between November elections and the end of the year.  

Democratic state Senator Glenn Anderson said lawmakers would only be able to act if there’s an emergency.

gophouse.com

State legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle say they hope to put partisan wrangling aside in 2013.

State lawmakers began their new session Wednesday.     

All but two Democrats voted to re-elect Republican state Representative Jase Bolger speaker of the House. Traditionally, the speaker receives bi-partisan, unanimous votes during opening ceremonies.

Democratic House leader Tim Greimel followed another tradition by seconding Bolger’s nomination for the position.

Jake Neher / MPRN

More than 200 people showed up at the state Capitol Wednesday to protest on the first day of the new legislative session.

The union-backed group criticized state lawmakers for making Michigan a “right-to-work” state, and quickly passing a number of other contentious bills during their “lame duck” session.     

Kim Dennison is a unionized nurse in Lansing.

“It’s important that legislators know that we did recognize what they did in December as a wrong move, and that we haven’t gone away, and that we expect better from them in the coming year,” Dennison said.

Calling their protest a “walk of shame,” demonstrators lined walkways leading to entrances to the Capitol. They booed Republicans and cheered Democrats as they entered the building.

The protests were organized by the same group behind the “right to work” protests last month that drew thousands of people.

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