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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A plan to ask voters to approve a 1% sales tax hike to help fix Michigan's roads has been defeated in the state Senate.

The proposal was expected to raise about $1.3 billion a year if approved by lawmakers and voters.

The resolution failed by a wide margin, 14-24. It would have needed 26 'yes' votes to pass.

The Senate is expected to take up a number of other road funding bills this afternoon. A plan to increase the state's gas tax to raise more than $1.4 billion a year is expected to come up for a vote later today.

Ariel Dovas

The top Republican in the state Senate says he’s not satisfied with the amount of money lawmakers have set aside for film and TV productions.

The Legislature is expected to wrap up a state budget this week. It will include $50 million in film incentives. That’s the same as last year, but half of that money is now slated to continue into future budgets.

Gov. Rick Snyder has sought to cut the film incentives since he took office in 2011. He says the state can make better investments that create more of an economic return.

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Gov. Rick Snyder wants a road funding solution on his desk by the end of this week.

Lawmakers will meet three days this week before they’re expected to go on their summer break.

One of the governor’s biggest priorities in his first term has been to boost infrastructure spending by more than $1 billion a year. But with political campaigns about to heat up over the summer, a legislative deal still hasn’t materialized.

The governor does not want the issue to stay unresolved until the fall - or later.

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Silverio Lopez and his son Antonio run their Tequila Cabresto brand out of their house in Southwest Detroit. They say about 60 restaurants in and around the city carry their brand of small batch, craft tequila. They also own a rim and tire shop just down the street. In total, they employ close to 10 people.

Silverio emigrated from Mexico in the early '80s. He says there were many reasons for settling down and starting a business in Detroit.

“The properties were cheap, the rent was cheaper, plus we had family here already,” he said through Antonio, who translated from Spanish.

The Lopez family exemplifies the kind of people Gov. Rick Snyder hopes to attract to Michigan – people with an entrepreneurial spirit who can create jobs.

But some critics of the governor’s new EB-5 visa program say it’s a slap in the face to immigrants like Silverio Lopez, who came here with nothing.

flickr/Schlüsselbein2007

Michigan is doing a better job calculating high school dropout and graduation rates. That’s according a new report from the state auditor general’s office.

An audit in 2006 showed the state was not providing reliable data on graduations and dropouts. It made a list of recommendations for how the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI) could do better.

Now, the auditor general says the department has met all those recommendations.

MichigansChildren / YouTube

Late last year, the state’s top education official had dire predictions for the finances of Michigan schools. He predicted the number of districts in deficit could reach 100 “before long.”

Now, state Superintendent Mike Flanagan says the situation is stabilizing, and he credits increased funding from the state.

“Debates aside about how much of an increase there is – there’s been improved funding the last couple years,” said Flanagan. “I think there could be more. But I think that’s helped.”

Flanagan gave his latest regular update to the state Legislature Thursday on school districts with budget deficits. He says the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) expects the number of deficit districts to have dropped from 52 to 45 over the course of this school year.

Flanagan says the state’s sluggish economy in recent years has made it difficult to help schools get their books in order.

“Now we’re coming out of it,” he said, “and we need to continue to invest in our kids. And I appreciate the start that this legislature and governor have made. I do think we can and will do more in the future.”

Flanagan is urging state lawmakers to create an “early warning system” for schools facing financial emergencies. Legislation in the state Senate would also make it easier for the state to assign an emergency manager if a district violates a deficit elimination plan.

Democrats say it’s not fair to say Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican-controlled Legislature have increased state education funding. Republicans include money that went into the teacher pension system.

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It looked like there might be a wave of bipartisan cooperation in Lansing. Lawmakers recently voted to raise the state’s minimum wage and contribute almost $200 million to help Detroit emerge from bankruptcy.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore with road funding negotiations in flux.

State lawmakers want to find a way to increase funding for roads in the next couple weeks. That’s when they leave Lansing for the summer.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers have committed to contributing $195 million to Detroit's bankruptcy settlement.

The state Senate gave final legislative approval to the bills to help protect retiree pensions and prevent the sale of city-owned artwork at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

“Today we are all Detroiters and we are all Michiganians,” said U.S District Court Judge Gerald Rosen following the vote. Rosen has been overseeing talks between Detroit and its creditors, and is considered the architect of the "grand bargain."

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Governor. Rick Snyder is firing back against critics of his so-called “pension tax.”

Snyder gave a special address on aging Monday in Rochester. He used part of the speech to defend his 2011 decision, which ended the practice of exempting pensions from state income tax.

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A bill to boost Michigan’s minimum wage would not be tied to inflation if a state House committee chair gets his way.

The legislation would gradually boost the wage from $7.40 to $9.20 an hour over three years. After 2017, it would index the minimum wage to inflation.

That last provision is something House Government Operations Committee Chair Pete Lund doesn’t want.

“I’ve never been a fan of that,” said Lund, R-Shelby Township. “And I don’t think that’s good economics. I don’t think that’s good for job creation in the long run.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It looks like efforts to boost state road funding by about $1.4 billion may have stalled in the state Senate. That’s after Senate Democrats came out against the plan because it would significantly increase the state’s gas tax.

Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, says increasing the amount people pay at the pump would disproportionately hurt the poor.

State capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The debate over raising Michigan’s minimum wage moves to the state House Wednesday.

A legislative panel will hear testimony on a bill that cleared the state Senate last week. Senate Bill 934 would gradually increase the wage from $7.40 an hour to $9.20 an hour. After 2017, the minimum wage would rise with inflation.  

State Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, chairs the panel. He says he’s open to the plan – but he has some concerns.

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The Michigan Senate could vote this week on bills that would increase state funding for roads by $1.3-1.4 billion a year. That’s almost triple the amount recently approved by the state House.

Under the Senate plan, people would gradually pay more taxes at the pump over the next few years.

The proposal was brought to light the same day the Michigan Chamber of Commerce unveiled a poll suggesting most Michiganders are ready to pay more for better roads.

Inside the Michigan Senate.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A bill to raise Michigan’s minimum wage from $7.40 to $9.20 an hour by 2017 has cleared the state Senate.

The bill is really an attempt by Republicans in Lansing to kill a petition drive that would raise the minimum wage to 10.10 an hour – including for tipped workers.

Light Brigade / Flickr

Leaders of the petition drive to raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour say a Republican attempt to derail their effort is nothing but a “dirty trick.” They also say it won’t stop them from turning in signatures to put their question in front of the Legislature, and, if necessary, voters.

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Legislation that would create a statewide teacher evaluation system has cleared its first hurdle in the Michigan Legislature. A state House panel approved the bills Tuesday with bipartisan support.

A diverse coalition of Michigan education groups recently came out in support of the legislation. Supporters say that could help clear the way for the Legislature to approve the bills before lawmakers leave Lansing in June for two months.

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.

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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.

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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.

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