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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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.


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.


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.


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.

Road in need of repair.
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.


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.

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.

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.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Unemployment line in California
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

user clarita / morguefile

A bill in the state Legislature would let health care providers, facilities, or insurers deny service based on religious, moral or ethical objections. The state Senate passed the bill Thursday.

Republican state Senator John Moolenaar is sponsoring the bill.   

“This legislation before you today will establish a solid, yet workable framework for protecting the fundamental rights for all Michigan citizens,” Moolenaar said.

Critics of the bill say it would let entire health systems deny care.

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.