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
5:20 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

State prison chief: Escape 'had nothing to do with' budget cuts

Michigan Department of Corrections Director Dan Heyns testifies in front of a state Senate budget panel Thursday on a recent prisoner escape in Ionia.
Jake Neher MPRN

The head of the state’s prison system blames a murderer’s recent escape from an Ionia prison largely on human error. That prisoner escaped earlier this month, and was caught in Indiana the next day.

Democrats want to know whether budget cuts had a role in the escape.  

Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) Director Dan Heyns told a state Senate budget panel Thursday that the prison had all the resources, equipment, and procedures it needed to prevent the escape.

Heyns says the blame falls on him and his department – not on the governor and state lawmakers.

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Education
6:30 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

State Board of Education tries to make school funding a central election issue

The debate over school funding is ramping up.
Thomas Favre-Bulle Flickr

The Michigan State Board of Education hopes public school funding will be a top priority for voters when they head to the polls in November.

The board on Tuesday kicked off a series of discussions meant to publicly critique the way the state pays for public education. The talks will continue at its monthly meetings until November.

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Politics & Government
8:19 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

Wolf hunt opponents challenge Michigan law limiting who can circulate petitions

Gary Kramer USFWS

A group hoping to end wolf hunting in Michigan says a law banning out-of-state petition circulators is unconstitutional. It filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court challenging the law.

Right now, only Michigan residents are allowed to collect signatures for ballot campaigns and voter initiatives.

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Politics & Government
6:09 am
Sat February 8, 2014

President Obama signs farm bill at Michigan State University

“A jobs bill, an innovation bill, an infrastructure bill, a conservation bill, a research bill. It’s like a Swiss Army knife,” said Obama, highlighting that the legislation is about more than just farming."
Rick Pluta MPRN

About 500 people packed a Michigan State University campus hall Friday to witness President Barack Obama sign the new federal farm bill.

The event capped years of negotiations and some tough compromises with Congress on the complex legislation. President Obama said he’s always glad to return to Michigan to cheer the auto industry recovery. Now, he says, it’s time to do the same for agriculture and rural America.

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Law
10:51 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Bills to curb animal abuse advance in Lansing

morguefile

Legislation meant to crack down on animal abuse in Michigan is one step closer to becoming law.

A state House panel approved bills Thursday that would ban convicted animal abusers from adopting an animal for five years. The legislation would also give animal shelters free access to a state database they could use to run background checks.

State Rep. Harvey Santana, D-Detroit, is spearheading the effort in the House.

“It just says, for the state of Michigan, we are a leader in the nation when it comes to how we approach the humanity of dealing with animals,” said Santana.

The legislation now goes to the full state House.

Politics & Government
10:45 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Lawmakers kick off budget debate, consider student loan tax credit

Michigan Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Thetoad Flickr

Debate over the state budget is underway in Lansing.

State lawmakers held their first budget hearings Thursday, a day after Governor Rick Snyder laid out his plan to fund state government into next year.

One of the first issues being discussed comes from a Democrat. The proposal from state Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, would give recent college graduates a tax break for staying in Michigan.

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Politics & Government
5:01 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Snyder spending plan proposes more money for schools, universities, local governments

Budget Director John Nixon, Gov. Rick Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley deliver the administration’s 2014-15 spending proposal to state lawmakers.
Rick Pluta MPRN

Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal calls for more money for schools, universities, and local governments. The governor presented his budget proposal Wednesday before a joint hearing of the state House and Senate appropriations committees. He says the plan is a frugal budget, but it makes badly needed investments.

“The investments are working that we’ve made over the past few years,” said Snyder. “They’ve been strong investments, good investments, but let’s finish the job we’ve started.” 

The governor also called for an election year tax break.

A homestead property tax credit – that could be claimed against last year’s taxes – would target more than a million low- and middle-income families. The governor says it would send help to taxpayers that need it the most. 

He also asked for more money for roads, healthcare, early childhood education, and law enforcement – as well as a large deposit in the state’s “rainy day” savings.

The budget proposal was met with mixed reactions from school groups, local governments, and Democrats.

Many public school officials in Michigan say the 3% funding boost is helpful. But they say it’s not nearly enough to offset years of inadequate funding from the state. And they it’s not clear how much of that money will have to go to things like teacher retirement costs.

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Law
6:18 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

State House passes bill denying juvenile lifers sentenced before 2012 shot at parole

Still Burning Flickr

So-called “juvenile lifers” in Michigan would not get a chance at parole under a bill approved Tuesday by the state House. That’s unless the Michigan Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court rule otherwise.

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Education
5:50 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

State supt. pans plan to hold back 3rd graders

Michigan’s top education official is panning legislation that would automatically hold back third graders who fail a state reading test.

“You don’t automatically retain kids. That’s just insane,” said state Superintendent Mike Flanagan. “This is up to teachers and parents together.”

Flanagan was speaking on the Michigan Public Television program “Off the Record.”

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Politics & Government
4:46 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Wage hike unlikely in Legislature; ballot drive likely

user cedarbenddrive Flickr

Legislation to raise Michigan’s minimum wage is not likely to go anywhere in 2014.

Republican leaders in the state House and Senate are not eager to take up bills to raise it above $7.40 an hour.

“It’s a firm ‘no’ for me,” said Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe. “I think that individual CEOs of companies in Michigan should make those decisions based on the marketplace, not some arbitrary law.”

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Environment & Science
8:20 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Environmental groups divided over possible tax break for oil and gas companies

morguefile

Oil and gas companies in Michigan could soon get a tax break for better utilizing wells, and the proposed measure is causing a split among environmental groups in the state.

A state House panel held its first hearing Tuesday on a bill meant to encourage companies not to abandon oil and gas wells once they’re no longer profitable. Supporters of the legislation say it is meant to encourage an extraction method that pumps carbon dioxide into older or low-producing wells to get relatively small amounts of oil out.

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Law
8:48 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Bill would require candidates to declare felonies

The state House could vote soon on a measure to require political candidates to reveal felony convictions that occurred within the prior 10 years.   

The bill would require candidates to indicate the convictions when they file to run for office. Convictions that are expunged or sealed by a court order would be exempt.

State Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Twp., sponsored the bill. 

“We’re trying to make sure the electorate knows who we are, and we’re being transparent,” said Kesto, a former prosecutor. “Because when it comes to criminal activity, it comes to the integrity of certain individuals who are the candidates, and we should be held to a higher standard.”

Kesto says the measure is not aimed at anyone in particular. However, there is a House Democrat, state Rep. Brian Banks, D-Detroit, whose eight felonies for fraud remained a secret until late in his primary campaign.

Politics & Government
7:36 pm
Sun January 26, 2014

Governing Michigan – a part-time job?

The Michigan State House (file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan voters could see a question on the November ballot this year asking them to make the state Legislature part-time.

The Committee to Restore Michigan’s Part-Time Legislature has turned in petition language to the state Bureau of Elections.

“This is about actually taking a Legislature that’s been pretty much dominated by lobbyists and getting them back into a citizen-driven ideology,” said the group’s chair, Norman Kammeraad, on the Michigan Public Television program “Off the Record.”

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Politics & Government
4:47 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

'Right-to-work' bill for lawyers introduced in Lansing

Credit Thetoad / Flickr

Attorneys would no longer be required to pay membership dues to the State Bar of Michigan, under a new bill in Lansing.

In 2012, the state made it illegal to require workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, making Michigan the 24th right-to-work state.

State Sen. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, introduced a bill today that would extend that same idea to lawyers. He says the State Bar has become a political organization, and its members should also have the choice to leave.

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Politics & Government
9:29 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

MDOT director: 'How many people should die' before roads are fixed?

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Michigan’s top transportation official is blasting state lawmakers for all but giving up on passing a long-term road funding fix this year.

Gov. Rick Snyder wants the Legislature to boost funding for roads and infrastructure by more than $1 billion a year. But lawmakers say Michigan voters are not ready to support raising taxes or fees to pay for it. Some say the roads may have to get worse before they can get better.

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Education
5:16 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Governor sparks discussion about student truancy in State of the State

Credit User Motown31 / Creative Commons

Michigan school groups are weighing Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal to help reduce the number of students who regularly miss school. In his State of the State speech Thursday night, the governor called for a state-wide definition of truancy.

He says it’s hard to address the problem when each school district has different standards for what that means.

Officials with the state’s largest teacher’s union, the Michigan Education Association (MEA), say a state-wide standard for truancy would be useful.

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Education
5:11 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Snyder and teachers unions agree on at least one thing: Year-round schooling

Credit jdurham / mourgeFile

  Teachers unions say they liked at least one thing Governor Rick Snyder said during his State of the State address Thursday night. The governor called for state incentives to encourage school districts to go year-round.

Under the plan, schools that volunteer would still have the same number of vacation days. They would just be spread out more throughout the year.

“Let’s try it!” said American Federation of Teachers of Michigan President David Hecker.

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Education
8:56 am
Thu January 16, 2014

State lawmakers grill education officials on new standardized tests

Michigan students may have more rigorous performance expectations on MEAP and other standardized tests.
Alberto G. / Creative Commons

Debate is underway in Lansing over which standardized test will replace the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP). State lawmakers held their first hearing on the subject Wednesday afternoon.

At the meeting, state education officials defended their decision to endorse a computer-based test known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment. They took exception to lawmakers who questioned whether the test was chosen carefully and objectively.

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Politics & Government
8:49 am
Thu January 9, 2014

State lawmakers back in action, talking tax cuts and hiring parolees

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo Flickr

The state Legislature has kicked off its 2014 session.

One of the first pieces of legislation introduced in 2014 would encourage Michigan employers to hire more parolees. More than 70% of people recently released from prison are unemployed and that number has been rising steadily over the past decade.

“By getting them employed, we stand a much better chance of having them stay out of prison and rebuild their lives and return to society and produce,” said state Rep. Joe Haveman (R-Holland).

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Politics & Government
9:00 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Plan to cut Michigan’s income tax in the works

Jake Neher MPRN

Republican state lawmakers hope to introduce legislation this month that would cut Michigan’s income tax rate. The plan would take the rate from 4.25% down to 3.9%.

Supporters of the idea say it would save Michigan taxpayers somewhere around $200 million a year. And with a budget surplus estimated at more than $1 billion over the next couple of years, they say the state can afford an election-year tax cut.

Some Republicans say they hope to draw down the income tax even lower than 3.9% if the state’s finances continue to improve. 

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