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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Education
5:29 pm
Wed December 5, 2012

Debate heating up over expansion of state's school 'turnaround' district

Civics teacher Jonathan Hui, like 25 percent of teachers at Denby, is from the Teach For America program.
Jake Neher MPRN

State lawmakers are mulling over a number of bills that would overhaul public education in Michigan.

One measure would expand a new state-run district meant to turn-around schools with test scores in the bottom five-percent.

The idea has many public school officials pitted against each other.

Schools like Detroit's Denby High school are at the center of the debate.

Last year, it was one of the lowest-performing schools in the Detroit Public Schools system. Now, it’s one of 15 Detroit schools the state oversees through its Education Achievement Authority.

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Education
5:54 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

State lawmakers committed to passing education overhaul by end of the year

Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

Republican state lawmakers say they are committed to passing an overhaul to public education in the “lame duck” session.

Opponents of the bills have been ramping up pressure to hold off until next year.

The bills include the expansion of a state-run district for struggling schools and a measure seeking to increase school choice.

House Education Committee Chair Lisa Lyons said the legislation can’t wait.

“We need to allow these schools and parents and students all the time, as much as possible, to transition and to plan for the education that they are going to receive next fall,” Lyons said.

A coalition of Michigan public school officials says the legislation would strip local control of schools.

Supporters say too many schools are failing to provide quality education. They say the measures are the best way to turn that around.

Politics & Government
3:00 pm
Sun December 2, 2012

Medical marijuana bills go to floor of state House

The new bills would allow insurance companies to deny coverage for medical marijuana patients.
user elioja Flickr

Bills in the state House would let insurance companies deny coverage for medical marijuana.

Employers could also refuse to reimburse medical marijuana expenses through workers compensation.

Opponents of the legislation say it discriminates against a legal form of patient care.

Republican state Senator Rick Jones said many opponents of the bills simply want to abuse the system.

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Politics & Government
7:04 am
Fri November 30, 2012

Michigan Attorney General asks U.S. Supreme Court to decide affirmative action ban

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette wants the U.S. Supreme Court to decide on the state's affirmative action ban.
US Supreme Court

State Attorney General Bill Schuette is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Michigan’s ban on affirmative action.

Schuette filed to submit the case to the land’s highest court Thursday.

Last month, a lower court threw out a voter-approved state ban on affirmative action.

Joy Yearout is a spokesperson for the attorney general.

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Politics & Government
5:21 pm
Tue November 27, 2012

State Senate approves regional transit authority for southeast Michigan

Mysid Wikipedia

Legislation to create a regional transit authority for southeast Michigan won approval from the state Senate Tuesday.

It passed the Senate by ten votes. A number of opponents have voiced concerns about how the authority would be governed, and the amount of power it would have.

Republican state Senator Tom Casperson sponsored the legislation.      

“They were valid concerns. But I think there needs to be a regional transit authority set up, in my opinion, based on what I’ve seen down in Detroit. And I think there was plenty of support for it. You saw it today, and hopefully we see the same thing over in the House,” Casperson said.

Casperson is from the Upper Peninsula, but says improving transit in southeast Michigan is essential to the state’s economic recovery.

Democratic state Senator Coleman Young II was the only member from Detroit to vote against the measure. He said he supports creating a regional transit authority, but not one with the power to take away property.

“I think that when you have appointees making decisions about whether or not grandma’s going to keep her house or not, I think that’s wrong,” said Young.

The legislation now goes to the state House.

Breaking
2:45 pm
Tue November 27, 2012

Michigan Senate passes legislation to create regional transit authority

The state Senate has passed legislation to create a regional transit authority for southeast Michigan. The bill passed 24-to-14 with bipartisan support.

It now goes to the state House.

Politics & Government
5:41 pm
Mon November 26, 2012

State lawmakers halt fetal tax exemption bills

Jim Lynch flickr

It appears legislation to allow people to claim a fetus as a dependent on their state taxes has stalled.

Plans to vote on the bills were scrapped, and they were removed from Monday’s state House Tax Policy Committee agenda.

Opponents of the measures called them a backhanded attack on access to abortions.

Committee Chairman Jud Gilbert said the issue has become too contentious.

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Politics & Government
4:35 pm
Mon November 19, 2012

Schuette: Changes to Blue Cross overhaul bills not enough to protect seniors

Bill Schuette for Michigan Attorney General

Michigan’s attorney general says state lawmakers must add more safeguards for seniors to legislation that would overhaul Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Bill Schuette testified Monday before the House Insurance Committee.

Schuette said bills passed last month by the Senate did not do enough to make sure Blue Cross continues to offer Medigap plans to seniors.

The program covers costs that Medicare doesn’t.

The attorney general said the proposal would drastically cut funding for Medigap, and only requires Blue Cross to offer it through 2016.

“I think the last thing we want is to have skyrocketing Medigap rates, or Medigap disappear altogether,” Schuette said.

Blue Cross officials say the measure gives seniors plenty of time to switch to more comprehensive and affordable plans.

The legislation would end Blue Cross’ tax exempt status. In return, the state would have less oversight of the Michigan’s largest health insurer.

Politics & Government
5:23 pm
Wed November 14, 2012

State lawmakers introduce "juvenile lifers" bills

A group of state lawmakers say it is time for Michigan to change the way it sentences juveniles convicted of murder.

This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it is unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to mandatory life sentences without the chance of parole.

Bills in the state House would strike that type of sentence from state law.

An important question is whether the ruling applies to people already serving mandatory life sentences. Democratic state Representative Mark Meadows said it does.

“If it’s a violation of the Constitution to sentence individuals in this manner, then it was unconstitutional prior to that time too,” said Meadows.

Sponsors of the legislation say they will push to apply the ruling retroactively. But they say they are willing to pass bills that only apply it to new cases.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette says re-sentencing convicted offenders would be too painful for victims’ families.

Health
12:27 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

Blue Cross officials say overhaul must pass before end of the year

federal health care law would setup health exchanges in each state
photo by Anna Strumillo Phuket - Thailand www.fotopedia.com

Officials with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan say the state Legislature must pass bills to overhaul the health insurer by the end of the year. Under the measures, Blue Cross would become a customer-owned non-profit, and would have to pay state and local taxes.

The federal health care law would setup health exchanges in each state to help people shop for policies. Deadlines for states to set up those exchanges are coming up soon.

Mark Cook of Blue Cross testified Tuesday before the state House Insurance Committee. He said the bills need to pass soon for the state’s largest insurer to participate in the health care exchange.

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Politics & Government
5:13 pm
Mon November 12, 2012

Michigan lawmakers stay busy despite "lame duck" session

The Michigan House of Representatives
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Lawmakers in Lansing say they want to tackle some high-profile bills before this session wraps up at the end of the year.

The state House is set to hold its first hearing tomorrow on a proposed overhaul of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

The measure would turn the state’s largest health insurer into a customer-owned non-profit and end its tax-exempt status.

House Insurance Committee Chair Pete Lund expects the chamber to pass some version of the bill before the end of the year.

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Politics & Government
4:36 pm
Fri November 9, 2012

Legislation would reform petition process for ballot proposals

A sample petition from the Committee to recall Rick Snyder.

Ballot campaigns would no longer be allowed to pay petition circulators based on the number of signatures they collect if a state house bill becomes law.

The measure was introduced just days after Michigan voters rejected all six proposals on the November ballot.

Republican state Representative Ken Horn said paying for signatures is an incentive for circulators to mislead voters.         

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Politics & Government
2:43 pm
Thu November 8, 2012

State house passes overhaul of Michigan's public defense system

Republican Representative Tom McMillin sponsored a bill to overhaul Michigan's public defender system.
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.

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Election 2012
4:55 pm
Wed November 7, 2012

Democrats pick up seats but "squander money" in fight for State House

House Speaker Jase Bolger won his reelection bid as Republicans maintained a majority in the State House.
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.

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Law
5:00 pm
Wed October 31, 2012

Former state Attorney General Mike Cox sues Blue Cross Blue Shield

Blue Cross Blue Shield building on Lafayette in Detroit.
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.

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Politics & Government
6:14 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

State Rep. will not receive jail time for drunken driving

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.

Politics & Government
6:10 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

Governor Snyder signs legislation attempting to reduce youth concussions

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.

Politics & Government
12:12 am
Tue October 23, 2012

Governor Snyder, Ambassador Bridge owners duel over Proposal 6, new bridge

Governor Snyder and Canadian Consul General Roy Norton at a town hall meeting Monday.
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.”

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Politics & Government
5:33 pm
Mon October 22, 2012

Michigan lawmakers seek to revive Civilian Conservation Corps

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.

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Politics & Government
4:58 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

Bill to reform Michigan's public defender system comes before Senate panel

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.

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