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.

Ways To Connect

.matter. / Flickr

  More low-level offenders will be able to have their criminal records erased from public records under a bill Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law Monday.

People will be able to ask the court that convicted them to erase up to one felony or two misdemeanors.

“We really think that this gives people with records a really meaningful second chance,” said Shelli Weisberg with the ACLU of Michigan.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to start signing bills Monday as part of a package to boost state road funding. The legislation is contingent on a May ballot question that would raise Michigan’s sales tax from six percent to seven percent.

If voters approve the plan, the new revenue is expected to raise more than $1 billion for roads and infrastructure, $300 million for schools, $130 million for mass transit, and almost $100 million for local governments every year.

Nate Grigg / Flickr

The state needs to do more to protect kids in child care. That’s according to a new policy brief from the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The document says the state would need to hire 140 additional child care facility inspectors to the 70 now working to make caseloads manageable.

A.Nich / Flickr

Michigan high school juniors will take the SAT instead of the ACT starting in spring 2016. The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) announced the switch on Wednesday.

The state has provided a free college entrance exam for eleventh graders on the state’s standardized test for several years.

The College Board – the company that administers the SAT – won a three-year, $17.1 million contract.

MDE spokesperson Martin Ackley says the SAT will be a better test that will save the state money.

Jake Neher / MPRN

Public officials and advocates are asking for help to clear a massive backlog of rape kits in Detroit.

More than 11,000 unopened and untested rape kits were found in a Detroit police storage unit in 2009. Since then, at least 2,000 have been tested.

Officials are now launching an unprecedented fundraising effort to help clear the rest of the backlog. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, the Detroit Crime Commission, and the Michigan Women’s Foundation are calling the collaboration Enough SAID (Sexual Assault in Detroit).

In the classroom.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A bill in front of Gov. Rick Snyder would require the state to find out how much it costs to educate a student in Michigan.

The legislation would require the state to find a qualified vendor to conduct the study. It would have to be completed within a year. At that point the findings would be presented to the governor and the Legislature.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder may soon approve a commission to review the state’s criminal justice policies.

Advocates say the state needlessly warehouses some inmates who would not threaten public safety if released. They say that’s a major reason Michigan spends $2 billion a year on its corrections system.

The commission would make recommendations to the Legislature on ways to safely reform the state’s criminal justice system.

Classroom
User Motown31 / Creative Commons

Gov. Rick Snyder is still interested in passing legislation to increase state intervention in schools with financial troubles.

The plan was one of Snyder’s education goals in 2014. It would increase reporting requirements for schools that risk going into budget deficit. It would also make it easier for the state to assign an emergency manager if districts don’t follow through on promises to get their books in order.

A set of companion bills would have also opened up more money in state grants and loans for eligible schools.

dave / morgueFile

Gov. Rick Snyder will soon consider a bill that could make public records cheaper and easier to obtain.

Proponents have long claimed some agencies that are subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) charge exorbitant fees to process requests for public records. They claim the goal is to discourage people from trying to obtain those documents.

Thetoad / Flickr

Some Michiganders may soon be able to have their criminal convictions removed from public records.

People would be able to petition the court that convicted them to remove up to two misdemeanors or one felony. Law enforcement officials would still be able to see the convictions.

Jake Neher / MPRN

A group of semi-truck drivers made some noise Tuesday outside the state Capitol.

Several 18-wheelers circled the building with horns blaring to protest legislation that would increase fines and fees for overweight vehicles. It’s likely to be part of a compromise plan to increase funding to fix Michigan’s roads.

State Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, says too many lawmakers are blaming truckers for poor road conditions.

“What are some of the folks here doing? They’re pointing fingers at them as if they’re the problem – and, ‘Go get ‘em!’ I think they’re frustrated with that and I think they’ve had enough,” said Casperson.

Thetoad / Flickr

Supporters of a religious freedom bill in the state Legislature are pushing back against recent criticism. The legislation is meant to protect religious practices against state and local government interference.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

It appears there hasn’t been much progress toward finding a way to boost state road funding in the Legislature’s “lame duck” session.

Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders met early on Monday to try to get the discussions rolling in the Legislature’s final week in 2014.

user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

The state Senate has approved legislation that would require internet retailers such as Amazon.com to collect a six-percent tax on all sales to people in Michigan.

Supporters say it is unfair to businesses that choose to open brick-and-mortar locations in Michigan that people can avoid paying the tax by shopping online.

Inside the Michigan Senate
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Coercing someone to have an abortion would carry tougher penalties under bills approved by the state Senate on Thursday.

The crime could result in criminal penalties under Senate Bills 1156 and 1157.

State Senator Randy Richardville
Photo courtesy of www.senate.michigan.gov

The state Legislature is taking steps to hammer out a road funding compromise in the final days of its 2014 session.

The House and Senate passed plans that are drastically different. The Senate approved legislation that would essentially double the state’s gas tax to pay for road improvements. The House plan would divert revenues from schools and local governments and would not raise any taxes.

Northwestern University / Athletics

Student athletes at Michigan’s public universities would be banned from unionizing under a bill approved by the state House on Tuesday. House Bill 6074 passed on a party-line vote.

“I don’t think we want to send the message to high school athletes that, gee, we want you to come to college and be a part-time university employee,” said Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, who sponsored the bill.

“We want you to come to college and get a great education. We want you to come to college and get an education that’s going to give you lifetime benefits.”

But state Representative Andy Schor, D-Lansing, points to the fact that there have been no reports of student athletes trying to unionize in Michigan.

user reinistraidas / Flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder will decide whether to extend Michigan’s film credit program through 2021.

The incentives are currently set to expire in 2017. The state Senate gave final legislative approval to the extension Tuesday morning with bipartisan support.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state House has approved bills meant to reduce prison costs in Michigan. But the sponsor of the legislation says the bills have been “gutted.”

State Representative Joe Haveman, R-Holland, says provisions were taken out that would have kept more people out of prison.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr

The state House has approved a bill that would revoke welfare payments from people who fail drug tests. The state would implement the one-year pilot program in three counties that have not yet been selected.

Wikimedia Commons

State lawmakers return to Lansing this week after a two week break for deer hunting and Thanksgiving.

Every Republican and Democratic leader at the state Capitol says fixing Michigan’s roads will be the top priority between now and the end of the year.

“Certainly, the primary focus will be on discovering a solution for funding of transportation in Michigan, specifically roads and bridges that are in desperate need of repair,” said Ari Adler, a spokesperson for state House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall.

Adler says the speaker wants more taxes paid at the pump to go to roads.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers could take up legislation next week meant to keep schools out of deficit.

The legislation would require more reporting from schools that are deemed to be in financial trouble. It could also open up more money in state grants and loans.

State Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, says he’s confident the bills will reach the governor’s desk by the end of the year.

“The more I talk about the process that we’re trying to establish the more support we get,” said Walker.

State Capitol
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It looks like a decision about whether to ease restrictions on medical marijuana will come down to the final days of the state Legislature’s 2014 session.

The state Senate has been debating for almost a year whether to allow dispensaries and edible forms of medical marijuana in Michigan.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says he wants to pass House Bills 4271 and 5104 in December. But he says some groups are still concerned the legislation could lead to more illegal pot sales.

  

Reinis Traidas / Flickr

The state House is expected to take up legislation next month that could decide the future of Michigan’s film credit program.

The credits will go away in 2017 if lawmakers do not act to extend them. The state Senate passed a bill last month that would keep them alive. Senate Bill 1103 got wide bipartisan support.

Blue Ocean Faith is an all-inclusive Christian community in Ann Arbor
user Marlith / Flickr

Supporters of adding LGBT protections to Michigan’s civil rights law say they have enough votes in the Legislature to pass a bill before the end of the year. But they say that’s only if Republican leaders take up a version of the bill that includes protections for gender identity.

Activists say a bill that leaves out protections for transgender people would cause more harm than good.

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Bills that seek to reduce prison spending in Michigan seem to have momentum going into the last weeks of the Legislature’s 2014 session.

Michigan spends about $2 billion every year on prisons. The legislation seeks to reduce the length of some prison stays and provide more supervision for people after they are released from prison.

The most widely supported proposal would create a commission to oversee sentencing guidelines and discuss other corrections policies.

“It creates a forum for exploring all this. And it’s something Michigan badly needs,” said Barbara Levine with the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending.

WCN 24/7 / Flickr

State education officials are preparing to implement new science standards in schools. The state Board of Education could adopt the standards as soon as next month.

The board hopes to avoid another battle with state lawmakers over the standards. The Legislature last year threatened to stop funding new standards for math and English known as the Common Core State Standards.

“This is the role and the authority of the state Board of Education to adopt state standards,” said Martin Ackley, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). “What we plan on doing and will do is inform the Legislature on these proposed standards.”

“We plan on sending a report to the Legislature on these proposed new standards for science in the state of Michigan,” he said.

Critics of both the Common Core and these current standards claim they take away local control of what is taught in schools.

State education officials hope the Next Generation standards will boost achievement in science. Less than 20 percent of Michigan students passed the state science exam last year.

Ed. note: This post has been updated to delete references to “Next Generation” standards. It's not clear if the standards will be presented as Michigan-specific standards that borrow heavily from NG.

How much does your vote count? Thanks to gerrymandering, it depends on where you live.
Theresa Thompson / Flickr

A plan to change the way Michigan awards its electoral votes for president got largely panned at a state House hearing on Monday.

The legislation would award up to seven of the state’s 16 Electoral College votes to the presidential runner-up in Michigan. The number of votes they get would depend on how close the popular vote is.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A state House panel is scheduled to meet Monday to consider changing the way Michigan awards its Electoral College votes for president.

Right now, the state assigns all of its 16 electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote. A new Republican proposal would allow the runner-up to get up to seven of those votes – depending on how close the vote is.

“What this does is it says, if you want to do well in Michigan, you got to actually come here and talk about our issues,” said bill sponsor state Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Twp.

Inside the Michigan Senate
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are considering multiple plans that would significantly increase state road funding. The state Senate on Thursday approved legislation that would raise the state’s gas tax to pay for road improvements.

But state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says they could still try to pass a plan that would raise the state’s sales tax.

“We may look to change the sales tax. And that may be a better way to fix the structural problem that we know exists at the pump already,” Richardville told reporters on Thursday.

Pages