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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Politics & Government
5:23 pm
Thu January 10, 2013

First state bills of 2013 aim to end “lame duck” sessions and cut FOIA filing costs

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.

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Politics & Government
5:05 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

Rep. Jase Bolger re-elected House speaker on first day of legislative session

Republican Jase Bolger was re-elected to his post as speaker of the House.
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.

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Politics & Government
3:36 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

Union members protest in Lansing on first day of new legislative session

Union members demonstrate outside the state Capitol on the first day of the 2013-14 legislative session Wednesday.
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.

Education
5:30 pm
Mon January 7, 2013

National advocacy group ranks Michigan 6th in nation for education policy

Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

A national education advocacy group ranks Michigan sixth in the country for education policy.

The group Students First says the state gets high marks for bills passed in recent years by the Republican-led state Legislature.     

They include measures making it tougher for teachers to be tenured, and teacher evaluations that depend more on student achievement.     

But Andy Solon with Students First said the state can do better in some areas.

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Politics & Government
1:26 pm
Mon January 7, 2013

Bear cub petting zoo bill will come up again in 2013

beingmyself flickr

Bills to ease restrictions on owning and breeding large carnivores in Michigan are likely to come up again in 2013.

Governor Rick Snyder recently vetoed the legislation because of language he said would compromise public safety.       

Republican state Senator Joe Hune said the measure has attracted unfair criticism. He said many opponents cite an incident in Ohio a year ago, when a man deliberately freed a number of dangerous exotic animals he owned.

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Politics & Government
5:22 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

Lt. Governor signs dozens of bills: Dead bodies, conservation corps, medical pot

Brian Calley Facebook.com

It will soon be illegal in Michigan to discover a dead body and not report it.

It’s one of more than 50 bills signed this week by Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley.

Failing to report a corpse will be a misdemeanor, which can come with up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. It will be a felony to fail to report the body if the intention is to hide the death or its cause.

Republican state Senator Tonya Schuitmaker sponsored the bill.

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Politics & Government
4:53 pm
Wed January 2, 2013

State’s top budget official praises Congress for averting fiscal cliff

State Budget Director John Nixon

Michigan’s top budget official is praising Congress for averting the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

Budget Director John Nixon said sweeping tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts could have seriously hurt the state’s finances.

“The good news is that I think as far as the whole economy is concerned, what they did yesterday was big for the state of Michigan,” said Nixon.

Nixon said he was most worried going over “the cliff” would have led to another recession.

That could have affected the state’s ability to pay for many basic programs and projects.

State officials say they’re keeping close watch on upcoming negotiations in Washington. They could include proposed cuts to state-administered programs like Medicaid and food stamps.

Politics & Government
2:45 pm
Wed January 2, 2013

Expanding state-run school district a top priority for Governor Snyder

User Motown31 Creative Commons

Governor Rick Snyder says expanding a state-run district for struggling schools is one of his top priorities for 2013.         

The Education Achievement Authority is designed to turn around schools with persistently low student test scores. Right now, the authority oversees 15 public schools in Detroit.      

Snyder wants to expand the district across the state. The EAA would be able to take over schools that fall in the bottom 5 percent.

Bills to expand the system did not move in the final weeks of the legislative session.        

Snyder says more lawmakers would come around to the idea if they saw the state-run schools firsthand.          

The EAA has been operating for just four months. Opponents of the expansion say it’s too early to tell if the system is working.


Environment & Science
12:44 pm
Wed January 2, 2013

State wildlife officials will start mulling wolf hunt this month

Michigan natural resources officials will start the new year considering a possible wolf hunt in the state.

Governor Rick Snyder recently signed a bill that establishes the gray wolf as a game species.

But that doesn’t mean there will be a wolf hunt in the state. That will be up to the state wildlife commission.

Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Ed Golder said the commission will start looking into the issue in January.

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Politics & Government
6:43 pm
Wed December 26, 2012

Some changes to Michigan's gun laws quietly going into effect

State capitol building (file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

In their “lame duck” session, state lawmakers passed a number of measures that would change state gun laws.    Governor Rick Snyder vetoed one of those bills last week.

But others are set to become state law.

The governor rejected a bill that would have let people with special permits carry concealed weapons into places like schools, daycares, and churches.

But Snyder signed a measure that would streamline the permitting process for handguns.

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Law
9:32 pm
Mon December 24, 2012

Rethinking Michigan's public defender system

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A proposed overhaul to Michigan’s public defense system will have to wait until next year for action by the state Legislature.

State lawmakers passed a flurry of bills in their “lame duck” session. But there were a number of high-profile bills that didn’t move at all.

One of those would change the way the state appoints lawyers to people who can’t afford one.

Michigan’s public defense system is considered one of the worst in the country.

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Law
2:32 pm
Fri December 21, 2012

Michigan Attorney General files terrorism charges against I-96 shooter

Livingston County Sheriff's Department

The man suspected of firing shots at more than 20 vehicles along I-96 and nearby roads faces a charge of terrorism and other felonies.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette filed the charges Thursday.

43-year-old Raulie Casteel could face life in prison if convicted. He also faces 60 counts in Oakland County related to the shooting spree.

Joy Yearout is a spokesperson for the attorney general. She said the charges are meant to send a message.

“Certainly terrorism is an unusual charge, but the facts of this case warrant it,” Yearout said.

The attorney general is consolidating cases related to shootings in Ingham, Livingston, and Shiawassee counties.

One person was injured in the shootings.

Politics & Government
5:34 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

New program requires three-week assessment for cash assistance applicants

Michael Raphael Flickr

Applicants for cash assistance in Michigan will have to go through a new 21-day assessment.

The state Department of Human Services Wednesday said the program is meant to bolster applicants’ job prospects.

The PATH program will replace a less intensive job training program.

DHS spokesman Dave Akerly said many people can’t find or keep a job because they have trouble finding child care and transportation.

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Politics & Government
5:30 pm
Mon December 17, 2012

Michigan’s 16 Electoral College votes officially cast for Obama/Biden

Michigan Electoral College delegates Marion Vanderveen and Toni Sessoms signing documents to cast the state's 16 electoral votes for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Jake Neher MPRN

Michigan’s 16 delegates to the Electoral College have officially cast their votes for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

The President netted 54 percent of the popular vote in Michigan during last month’s general election.       

Monday’s gathering of Electoral College delegates in the state Senate chambers also included a resolution condemning state lawmakers’ actions in recent weeks.

State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer presided over the meeting.

“To cast all 16 votes for President Barack Obama, we know that Michigan is a state that believes in opportunity and embraces a vision for our state and for our nation that looks forward. Not one that focuses on an extreme ideological agenda,” Whitmer said.

The resolution criticized the Republican-controlled state legislature for swiftly passing a number of controversial bills in the final weeks of its session.

Politics & Government
4:14 pm
Fri December 14, 2012

Controversial abortion bill headed to Gov. Snyder’s desk

Protesters turned out at the Capitol in June after Rep. Lisa Brown was banned from the House floor after using the word "vagina" during debate over the controversial abortion bill.
Rick Pluta Michigan Public Radio Network

Governor Rick Snyder will have the final say on a measure to add restrictions for abortion providers.

State lawmakers approved the legislation Thursday.         

Among other things, it requires physicians to screen women to make sure they’re not being forced or coerced to have an abortion.      

Opponents of the bill like state Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield) say it’s designed to restrict access to abortions.

“I guess I can hope that the governor will veto it and make a stance to say, ‘this isn’t what I want to do, we need to work on jobs, we need to work on quality education for our kids, protect our natural resources,’ things like that,” Brown said.

Lawmakers did not take up a measure that would let doctors, healthcare facilities, and insurers deny care based on moral objections.

That bill could be reintroduced in the new legislative session that begins next month.

Politics & Government
4:09 pm
Fri December 14, 2012

State Senate approves a plan to phase out tax on industrial and business equipment

Joel Dinda flickr

The state’s tax on industrial and business equipment is a step closer to being phased out. State lawmakers Thursday sent the measure to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk. 

The personal property tax repeal was one of Governor Snyder and Republican state leaders’ top priorities for the lame duck session.

They say it discourages investment in the state and kills jobs.

Supporters of the plan say it will reimburse local communities for most or all of the revenue they would lose for services like schools, police, and fire.

Ari Adler is a spokesperson for state House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall).

“Many communities rely on the revenue that comes from this tax, and we did not want to leave them in a lurch,” Adler said.

Opponents like state Rep. Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills) say the bills do not do enough to make up for those losses.

“It’s clear locals are going to lose money. Schools are going to lose money. The question is, just how much? And it could be anywhere from $250 million to – what I believe, when fully implemented – closer to $800 million, if there’s no replacement,” Barnett said.

Michigan voters will be asked to approve the reimbursement plan in August of 2014. If it’s rejected, the state will stop phasing out the tax.

Politics & Government
11:19 pm
Wed December 12, 2012

State House approves emergency manager replacement bill

Republican state Rep. Al Pscholka sponsored the original emergency manager law.
Michigan House Republicans

The state House has approved a measure that would replace the emergency manager law that voters rejected last month.

Supporters of the measure say it gives local governments and schools more choices than Public Act Four. That law was rejected by voters last month.

The options now would include coming to a consent agreement with the state, mediation, an emergency manager, or bankruptcy.

Republican state Representative Al Pscholka sponsored the original emergency manager law.

“It is a significant difference from Public Act 4, because it allows the local elected officials to have a choice,” Pscholka said.

Democratic state Representative David Nathan of Detroit said he doesn’t see a real difference between the proposal and the original law.

“I think that both of those – (Public Act) 4 and this legislation – is imposing its will on communities and not allowing the communities to be a part of the decision-making process to get them out of the struggles that they have,” Nathan said.

A provision in the bill would make the measure immune to a voter referendum, like the one that repealed the original emergency manager law.

The bill now goes to the state Senate, where a vote is likely Thursday.

Politics & Government
5:21 pm
Wed December 12, 2012

Anti-abortion legislation a step closer to Gov. Snyder’s desk

Clinics that provide abortions would have to meet new licensing requirements under the new legislation.
Steve Rhodes Flickr

The Michigan Senate has passed legislation that would add restrictions for abortion providers.

Any facility that provides abortions would have to meet new licensing and insurance requirements. The legislation also mandates a screening process to make sure women aren’t forced to have an abortion.        

Renee Chelian is with Northland Family Planning Clinics. She said the bills are a backhanded attempt to limit access to abortions.

“This is a way to make abortions more expensive by causing clinics to do all kinds of construction that’s not necessary. If you raise the cost of abortion, you make it inaccessible to women, and that’s really what they’re whole point is,” Chelian said.       

Supporters of the measure say it’s meant to protect women. Republican state Senator Rick Jones is one of the most outspoken advocates of the measures.

“This bill provides that abortion clinics will be safe, they will be inspected, they will be licensed. This is so important to the safety of women in the state of Michigan,” Jones said.

The state House passed the legislation in June. It will have to approve changes made by the Senate.

Politics & Government
4:04 pm
Tue December 11, 2012

Right-to-work bills headed to Gov. Snyder’s desk

House Democrats crowd around podium after the first "right-to-work" bill passes, demanding a motion to reconsider. Motion was denied.
Jake Neher MPRN

Governor Rick Snyder will have the final say as to whether Michigan will become a so-called “right-to-work” state.

The state House approved legislation Tuesday that would end the practice of requiring workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

Representative Tim Greimel is the new leader of the state House Democrats. He said the fight over “right-to-work” is not over.

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Politics & Government
7:26 am
Tue December 11, 2012

Police prepare for large protests today in Lansing

david_shane flickr

Dozens of State Police have gathered in a hallway in the Capitol’s lower level, cordoned off by blue curtains. This is their base of operations in the building this week as hundreds – maybe thousands - of protesters are expected to fill the upper levels.

In one closet, police have stashed helmets and other riot gear.

Capitol Facilities Director Steve Benkovsky hopes the demonstrations will stay peaceful.

"Everybody has a right to come in here and voice their opinion. And we'll deal with it the best we can and let them voice their opinion," said Benkovsky.

State and local police plan to close a number of streets around the state Capitol.

They will also limit the number of people allowed in the building.

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