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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Michigan House Republicans

A proposed overhaul to Michigan’s public defense system is on its way to the state Senate.

Lawmakers in the House passed the bill today with bipartisan support. The bill passed with 71 “yes”votes.

Most of the 36 votes against it came from Republicans.

The state’s system for appointing attorneys to those who can’t afford one is ranked among the worst in the country.

Republican Representative Tom McMillin sponsored the bill. He said he hopes conservatives will be on board in the Senate.

gophouse.com

Despite losing a handful of seats in Tuesday’s election, Republicans have hung on to a small majority in the state House.

Democrats look to have picked up five seats, narrowing GOP control to eight.

Inside Michigan Politics Editor Bill Ballenger said Democrats had a chance to take control of the House.

“But apparently they squandered three-quarters of a million dollars trying to beat the speaker in a 57% Republican district out of some, I guess, personal vendetta about the Roy Schmidt party switch,” Ballenger said.

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

Former state Attorney General Mike Cox says Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan illegally denies seniors access to certain plans.

Cox filed a class action lawsuit Wednesday against the state’s largest health insurer.

It claims Blue Cross denies access to its most popular Medigap plan to anyone with a retiree health savings account. Medigap is a program that covers healthcare costs that Medicare does not.

Cox said the policy unfairly forces some customers to buy more expensive plans.

Republican state Representative Bob Genetski
Photo courtesy of Rep. Genetski's office

State Representative Bob Genetski will serve no jail time for his drunken driving conviction handed down last month.

The Republican from Saugatuck will have to complete 40 hours of community service. He’ll also have to pay fines and court fees.

Genetski was pulled over for driving while intoxicated in January by a Michigan State Police officer. His blood alcohol level was .08 an hour and a half after his arrest.

A jury found him guilty last month.

The maximum penalty would have been 93 days in jail. It could also come with up to 360 hours of community service, and a maximum $500 fine.

Jail time is unusual for first-time offenders.

New legislation attempts to reduce the number of sports-related concussions in kids.
YMCA of Western North Carolina / flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has signed legislation to help schools reduce the number and severity of sports-related student concussions.

The bills require coaches to immediately remove a player from a game if they suspect a concussion.

Coaches, players, and parents will also have access to new information and training materials about serious head injuries.

Senator John Proos sponsored one of the bills. He says the state needs to be in position to provide the best and most up-to-date information to schools and parents.

“Every time we answer a question about traumatic brain injury or concussions, we learn that there are ten more questions that come up,” he said.

The bills easily made their way through the state Legislature last month.

Michigan is now one of many states that have passed anti-concussion legislation.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder is focused on the Michigan ballot with two weeks to go before Election Day.

On Monday, Snyder appeared alongside Canadian consul general Roy Norton at a Canada-United States Business Association meeting town hall in Detroit.

Both men asked Michigan and Canadian business leaders to support the proposed New International Trade Crossing. And both urged a “no” vote on Proposal 6, which would require a statewide referendum on any new international crossings. He says he’s in “campaign mode.”

A group of young CCC enrollees at Chittenden Nursery in Manistee National Forest.
The Forest Historical Society / flickr

Some Michigan lawmakers hope to restore a program that would put young adults to work on public works projects—but without costing taxpayers any money.

The state Senate recently approved legislation to resurrect the Michigan Civilian Conservation Corps.   

The legislation would fund the MCCC through a public-private partnership. Bill sponsors say no taxpayer dollars would be involved.

The bills were supported by commanding bi-partisan majorities in the Senate.

A bill before a Michigan Senate panel would reform the state's public defender system.
Bill Ledbetter / flickr

A Senate panel has begun hearing arguments on a bill to fix the way Michigan counties provide defense attorneys to the poor.

The chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee says he’s still skeptical about the legislation.

Senator Rick Jones says it’s clear a handful of counties are having problems appointing competent public defenders. But he says he still doesn’t see it as a statewide issue that requires sweeping changes.

Nancy Diehl is the former president of the State Bar of Michigan, which supports the bill.

A new TV ad for Senator Debbie Stabenow.
screen grab

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow are both far outspending their opponents on TV ads in Michigan.

That’s according to a report released Monday by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

The report says groups supporting Romney have spent about $13 million for ads in Michigan since the February primary.

The Obama campaign and supporters haven’t spent as much in Michigan, but Obama still has a lead among likely voters, according to most polls.

Rich Robinson is with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Ruth Johnson has faced criticism over the citizenship question on Michigan ballots this year.
user jdurham / MorgueFile.com

DETROIT (AP) - A judge has told Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to remove citizenship check-off boxes from November ballot applications.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman made the ruling Friday during a hearing in Detroit. A written decision is expected Tuesday.

Borman told Johnson the boxes that ask Michigan voters to confirm their U.S. citizenship slows the voting process, is confusing and is a burden on the right to vote.

Michigan Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson.
MI SOS

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson will be in federal court Friday to defend a citizenship checkbox she ordered on November ballot applications.

Election officials would ask voters to confirm their U.S. citizenship, but would not deny them a ballot if they decline to answer.

A number of county clerks say it’ll cause confusion and could scare off eligible voters.

Andrew Nickelhoff, an attorney for the coalition against the checkbox, questions its legitimacy.  

“We know from experience from the August primary and from information we’ve received afterward that many voters don’t think it’s appropriate, and many clerks who are administering these elections don’t think it’s appropriate,” he said.

The Secretary of State had filed a motion asking to have her election director speak on her behalf during the hearing.

The judge denied the request today, saying she had to be present in the courtroom.

Johnson says the citizenship question will help cut down on voter fraud and the number of non-citizens who receive ballots.

Some bikers have been riding without helmets since a law requiring them was repealed in April.
user ivandub / Flickr

The group that led the charge to repeal Michigan’s motorcycle helmet requirement says the state has not suffered a rash of biker deaths in the past six months.

That is how long it has been since the law was changed.

American Bikers Aiming Toward Education (ABATE) point to state data between January and the end of August.

But state officials say it is really too early to tell what the effect has been.

Anne Readett of the state’s Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) said the data is provisional and incomplete.

“We, in our office, are not going to speculate one way or the other until we know that we have final data to look at,” she said.

The OHSP did release up-to-date numbers showing biker deaths slightly up since last year. The department also said there has been a 14 percent increase in incapacitating injuries.

Readett said they won’t be able to reach any good conclusions until at least spring, when they analyze the entire year.

House Speaker Jase Bolger.
Jase Bolger / Facebook.com

State House Speaker Jase Bolger is facing harsh criticism about his business record from a liberal advocacy group.

Progress Michigan released documents alleging Bolger’s company, Summit Credit Service, failed to pay more than $100,000 in taxes and fees between 1997 and 2000.

The papers include liens from the Michigan Treasury Department, the state Unemployment Agency, and the IRS.

Bolger’s spokesperson, Ari Adler, said all taxes and fees have been paid in full.

“All of these issues were addressed more than 10 years ago. And now Speaker Bolger and his partners have a successful small business that is employing people in Michigan,” Adler said.

The Speaker is currently under investigation by a grand jury for allegations of election fraud in a separate matter.

Governor Snyder is expected to sign legislation attempting to reduce the number of concussions in youth sports.
Reigh LeBlanc / flickr

Governor Rick Snyder said he expects to sign legislation to reduce the number and severity of concussions in youth sports. The Legislature easily passed the two bills last week.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association worked with lawmakers to craft the bills. The MHSAA’s John Johnson says many coaches may not know how to spot signs of concussions.

“It’s much, much more than a kid laying unconscious on the field. That happens only 1-in-10 times when a concussion has been sustained,” he said.

Johnson said the legislation would give coaches, players, and families the information they need to help limit the damage caused by head injuries. It would also require coaches to immediately take a player out of a game if they suspect a concussion.

The lone dissenter in the House, Representative Bob Genetski, said it’s not the state’s job to protect kids from every potentially unsafe situation.

Thousands of state employees are applauding a judge’s ruling that they shouldn't be forced to pay for their pension benefits.

An Ingham County Circuit Court judge said today that a rule requiring state employees cough up four-percent of their salaries to keep their pensions is unconstitutional.

She said it’s effectively a pay cut, something only the Michigan Civil Service Commission has the authority to enact.

Ray Holman is with UAW Local 6000, the largest state employee union in Michigan.

A DDOT bus in Detroit. People have been talking about the need for a regional transit authority for many years.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Southeast Michigan county, business, and community leaders seem to agree; the region needs a transit authority to attract businesses and young talent.

Testimony at a House transportation committee hearing overwhelmingly supported bills to create an authority.

John Hertel is the general manager of the SMART transit system. He said this is the first time in four decades he’s seen this level of agreement between the city of Detroit and its suburbs.

"I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s wonderful to see. But while it’s there, we need to strike and move forward. This kind of thing obviously doesn’t come along very often," said Hertel.

Hertel said he’s not yet confident the Legislature will pass the plan.

Robert Daddow spoke on behalf of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. He’s confident the bills will pass.

"The governor has pressed this for some period of time, has been actively working in the coordination between the units – Detroit, Wayne, Oakland, Washtenaw - in trying to get an agreement together. And we’re very, very close, if not right there, right now," said Daddow.

State officials have tried many times to establish a regional transit authority in southeast Michigan.

Some supporters are skeptical it can get out of the legislature. Others worry about possible legal challenges if it does pass.

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