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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Jim Howley (left) and his son Josh Howley (right) at 2nd Amendment rally at the Michigan capitol today.
Jake Neher / MPRN

More than 200 gun owners descended on the state Capitol in Lansing Tuesday  many of them openly carrying firearms. Several pro-gun groups from across the country participated in the annual  Second Amendment Day demonstration.

They say the rally is an important way to remind state policymakers to protect residents’ gun rights.

“It lets them know we’re not going to back off,” said Jim Howley of Stevensville. “We’re not going to change our mind, we’re still pushing for the Second Amendment, and pushing for the Constitution in general.”

During the rally, state Representative and congressional candidate Tom McMillan, R-Rochester Hills, announced new pro-gun legislation that would require local governments to take laws off the books that restrict where people can openly carry firearms.

Jake Neher / MPRN

Women’s rights advocates say boosting the state’s minimum wage would be a big step toward equal pay in the workplace. Groups backing both causes joined forces Tuesday during an equal pay rally at the state Capitol.

“Women are disproportionately represented in low-wage work. So, when we raise the minimum wage we are raising them a little bit more out of poverty,” said Danielle Atkinson with Raise Michigan, a coalition working to put a minimum wage increase on the November ballot.

Wikimedia Commons

Efforts to keep electronic cigarettes out of the hands of minors continue this week in Lansing. A state House panel will hold a hearing Tuesday morning on legislation that would make it illegal to sell e-cigarettes to minors.

The smokeless devices produce a nicotine-laced vapor, but do not contain any actual tobacco. The bipartisan bill would define e-cigarettes as tobacco products. But it would also exempt them from the state’s tobacco tax.

“It does not tax e-cigarettes and it does not limit adult use,” said bill sponsor state Rep. Gail Haines, R-Lake Angelus.

Andy Nguyen / Flickr

A Republican in the state Senate wants to boost Michigan’s minimum wage to $8.15 an hour.

Sen. Rick Jones’ introduced the legislation Thursday, which would be an alternative to a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage.

That ballot drive would boost the rate from $7.40 an hour to $10.10 an hour. It would also eventually raise the rate for tipped workers from $2.65 to $10.10 an hour.

Jones, R-Grand Ledge, thinks that kind of increase would put many Michigan restaurants out of business.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Republican leaders in Lansing are not joining House Speaker Jase Bolger’s calls for unions to contribute to Detroit’s bankruptcy settlement.

Gov. Rick Snyder and several foundations have signed off on a complicated deal to protect retiree pensions and artwork at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The state’s contribution to the so-called “grand bargain” would be about $350 million, and state lawmakers would have to approve that money.

Bolger, R-Marshall, says it’s only fair for unions to contribute to the deal as well.

SDOT Photos / Flikr

A plan to boost state road spending by about half-a-billion dollars a year is taking shape. State lawmakers introduced four bills Thursday that are now part of the package.

Jake Neher / MPRN

The Democrat likely to challenge Gov. Rick Snyder in November says improving public schools would be his top priority in office.

Former Congressman Mark Schauer and his running mate, Lisa Brown, unveiled their education plan Wednesday in Lansing.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Local officials say not enough of the revenue Michigan takes in around Tax Day goes to cities, towns, and counties.

The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council released a study Tuesday that shows state revenue grew by more than $1 billion between 2009 and 2012. At the same time, local government revenue dropped by about the same amount.

The Michigan Municipal League (MML) says the disparity between local and state revenue is partly because the state has cut aid to Michigan communities.

Jake Neher / MPRN

The ACLU of Michigan is suing the state to force it to recognize the marriages of about 300 same-sex couples who got married last month.

Clint McCormack and Bryan Reamer are one of eight couples named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed Monday.

McCormack and Reamer have ten adopted sons and three foster daughters they are raising together in Farmington Hills. They started taking in children in 1998, and McCormack says they only recently decided to stop at 13 kids.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr

There could be movement soon on bipartisan legislation that would revamp teacher evaluations in Michigan. A number of groups that did not previously support the bills now say they’re on board.

Education advocates, bill sponsors, and lobbyists have been meeting this week to hammer out changes to the legislation.

Jake Neher / MPRN

Michigan now has tougher laws on the books meant to crack down on scrap metal theft.

Under a bill signed by Gov. Rick Snyder Thursday, people can no longer get instant cash when they sell commonly stolen items for $25 or more.

Supporters say mailing payments for those items will help law enforcement by creating a paper trail. They say communities all over the state have been literally ripped apart by illegal scrapping.

lcars / Flickr

Michigan will be only the second state in the country to run a statewide center meant to encourage investment from immigrants.

The center will provide visas for people who invest at least $1 million in the state and create at least ten jobs. The required investment goes down to $500,000 if it is made in a rural community or one with high unemployment.

This is one piece of Gov. Rick Snyder’s strategy to attract more immigrants to Michigan. His administration expects the center to bring in at least $30 million and create 600 new jobs every year.

A state House Republican plan to fix Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure is drawing criticism from some prominent Democrats.

The proposal seeks to boost road funding by about $500 million a year. That’s well short of the $1-2 billion most estimates say is needed to adequately address the problem.

Mark Schauer and Lisa Brown at today's announcement.
Jake Neher / MPRN

Mark Schauer has made it official. He has chosen Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown to be his running mate in this year’s race for governor.

Schauer, a former congressman from Battle Creek, is the likely Democratic challenger to Gov. Rick Snyder in November.

Marijuana plant.
bobdoran / Flickr

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says Michigan vets will not lose their federal benefits if they legally use medical marijuana. The VA’s statement is a response to the state’s decision to add post-traumatic stress disorder to its medical marijuana program.

Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) Director Steve Arwood approved the change a couple weeks ago. But he urged veterans to consult with a VA representative first. He said it was unclear whether using medical marijuana would put their federal benefits at risk.

makzhou / Flickr

Michigan State University could risk losing $500,000 if it does not stop offering courses that allegedly promote unionization.

A state Senate panel approved a measure Thursday banning courses at public universities that promote or discourage organizing efforts. It’s a reaction to MSU’s recent decision to take over some programs from the National Labor College.

Republicans say those courses violate the proposed rule.

“I believe in academic freedom, and you’re going to have difficult subjects that you’re going to cover at any university,” said state Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, who chairs the panel that directs higher education funding in the House. 

“But this is a case where I think we’re almost encouraging labor disputes, and I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

The only Democrat that sits on the Senate panel that approved the penalty says it’s unusual for lawmakers to scrutinize university programs this intensely.

“Why just this program?” asked state Sen. Morris Hood III, D-Detroit. “And I would guess to believe that this is a hot topic item and it ruffles a lot of feathers.”

An MSU official says the university’s curriculum is balanced. He says it also offers classes that educate businesses on labor issues.

Pscholka says lawmakers will probably decide whether to move forward with the $500,000 penalty when they return from a three-week break in April.

user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

Michigan is joining at least 17 other states in calling for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

On Wednesday, the state Senate gave final approval to a resolution formally asking Congress to call a constitutional convention to consider the amendment. It would take 34 total states to compel Congress to call a constitutional convention.

Jake Neher / MPRN

A widely unpopular tax on business equipment in Michigan is one step closer to being permanently repealed.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say the industrial portion of Michigan’s Personal Property Tax (PPT) is a job killer and keeps companies from investing in new equipment.

Marijuana plant.
bobdoran / Flickr

Michiganders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder can now get a card to use medical marijuana.

The state’s director of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Steve Arwood, gave final approval to add PTSD to the state’s medical marijuana program about a week after it was recommended by a state review panel.

mikethefifth / Flickr

There’s a new push in Lansing to pass legislation meant to fight scrap metal theft in Michigan. Votes in the House and Senate could come as soon as this week.

Supporters of House Bills 4593 and 4595 say the state must require a paper trail whenever someone sells commonly stolen items to a scrap yard.

State Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, says there has been disagreement over how best to do that. But she says she is confident lawmakers will reach a deal soon.

user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

A controversial law banning elective abortion coverage in standard health insurance plans is now in effect. It requires people who want abortion coverage to buy it as a separate, optional insurance policy.

The initiated law was championed by Right to Life of Michigan and passed by the state Legislature late last year.

Since then, seven insurance companies have decided to offer separate, optional abortion policies, or “riders,” for employers to offer their workers. Those plans cost between a penny and 32 cents extra every month for each employee.

alvimann / morguefile

Michigan craft breweries are cheering the state Legislature for passing bills to ease some state regulations.

The state House sent the bill package to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk Thursday.

One bill would double the amount of beer Michigan microbreweries could produce every year.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It could soon be easier for phone companies to end traditional landline service in Michigan.

The state Senate gave final legislative approval to the measure Thursday. Senate Bill 636, which was championed by AT&T, now goes to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk.

Jake Neher/ MPRN

State lawmakers are about to dive into the process of crafting a budget for next fiscal year. But they have to fix some problems with the current year’s budget first.

One of the biggest concerns is a hole in the state’s Medicaid budget of more than $100 million. Everyone agrees that shortfall needs to be addressed. But the state House and Senate have not been able to agree on how to fix it or where that money should come from.

User Eljoja / Flickr

The debate over reviving medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan starts up again in Lansing this week.

User Eljoja / Flickr

Dakota Serna served in the Marines during the Iraq War. He says memories of seeing friends and children killed left him suicidal after he came home. Serna says the only thing that has helped him get his life back on track is using marijuana.  

But that puts him on the wrong side of the law as it is currently written.

“Somebody on paper can say that I’m a criminal,” said Serna. “Somebody can come to my house and try to put me in handcuffs. But I’m not a criminal.”

Lauri Rantala / Wikimedia Commons

It could soon be illegal to sell electronic cigarettes to children in Michigan. The state Senate unanimously passed legislation Thursday meant to keep the smokeless devices out of the hands of minors.

So-called “e-cigarettes” deliver a nicotine-laced vapor, but don’t contain tobacco. That means the state cannot currently regulate them along with regular cigarettes and other tobacco products.

user alkruse24 / Flickr

Lawmakers in the state House have approved a $2 million pilot program to encourage schools to go year-round.

Schools in mostly low-income areas could get money from the state to add air-conditioning and other things allowing them to operate in the summer. The measure was introduced by Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, and Gov. Rick Snyder called on lawmaker to pass it in his budget address last month.

Supporters say students lose too much of what they learn after long summer breaks.

loopkid / Flickr

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan hopes to renew state lawmakers’ interest in curbing scrap metal theft across the state. Duggan met with Democrats and Republicans in the state House on Wednesday.  

He wants to make sure the House does not approve a Senate version of legislation that he says does not go far enough to crack down on illegal scrap metal sales.

user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

The state House and Senate have not been able to agree on a mid-year budget bill.

The legislation could address emergency money for Michigan roads being torn apart by severe winter weather. But the House and Senate disagree about how much is needed to address the problem. They also don’t agree about whether to patch a $100 million-plus hole in the state’s Medicaid budget.

Lawmakers formed a conference committee Wednesday to iron out those differences.

Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Kahn says addressing the Medicaid shortfall should be a no-brainer.

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