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
9:14 am
Mon August 5, 2013

Lawmaker wants to raise state sales tax to help students pay for college

State Representative Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills).
House Democrats Michigan.gov

Many Michigan students would pay little to no money for in-state college tuition under a proposal in Lansing. State Representative Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills) wants to raise the state’s sales tax by one percent to pay for the plan.

Barnett talked about the proposal on the Michigan Public Television program “Off the Record.”

“People are recognizing that we need to find a way to make sure that all of our kids who graduate high school who want to go on and get a higher educational degree have the opportunity to do so without having the weight and burden of student loans carrying them down,” Barnett said.

Besides helping students gain access to higher education, she says it would also help attract employers.

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Politics & Government
5:40 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

Gov. Snyder 'relentlessly positive' about Medicaid expansion prospects

Governor Rick Snyder

Governor Rick Snyder is applauding a state Senate panel for advancing a bill to expand Medicaid in Michigan. For weeks, Snyder has been trying to put pressure on lawmakers to vote to extend Medicaid benefits to hundreds of thousands of residents.

But the committee also approved two alternative proposals that also seek to extend coverage to low-income Michiganders. Those plans would not expand Medicaid.

Snyder says he’s not worried that the competing bills will peel votes away from the legislation he supports.

“That’s yet to be seen. In many respects, I’m not sure you have to say you can only vote for one bill. If you actually see value in more than one bill, why does that mean you can only vote for one?”

All three proposals now go to the full Senate. A vote on the issue is expected at the end of this month.

Politics & Government
9:51 am
Thu August 1, 2013

Medicaid expansion bill clears state Senate committee

The state Capitol in Lansing.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

A state Senate panel has approved legislation to expand Medicaid in Michigan. The bill would extend coverage to hundreds of thousands of residents through the Affordable Care Act.

The panel also advanced two alternative Medicaid proposals. Neither would expand Medicaid. But proponents say they would expand health care coverage – either through other state programs or the free market.

Senator Bruce Caswell  is sponsoring legislation that would create a state-run health care program for low-income residents who are not currently eligible for Medicaid.

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Politics & Government
5:30 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Senate panel will take Medicaid vote Wednesday

Capitol building in Lansing, MI
Matthileo Flickr

A state Senate panel is expected to vote tomorrow on legislation to expand Medicaid in Michigan. It would extend Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of residents under the Affordable Care Act.
 
State Senate Republicans refused to vote on the Medicaid expansion bill last month before their summer recess. Since then, a legislative work group has made relatively small changes to the proposal.

But Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he thinks the changes will be enough to win over some of his GOP colleagues.

“I think that there will be a lot more support. It’ll be broader support than the one that was put in front of us, when I don’t believe the votes were there.”

The panel will also consider two alternative proposals, which would not expand Medicaid under the federal health care law.

Politics & Government
10:14 am
Mon July 29, 2013

Bill seeks to stop police from tracking someone via GPS without warrant

State representative Jeff Irwin
HouseDems.com Michigan.gov

Some state lawmakers want to make it a felony for police officers to track people using GPS without a warrant.

The legislation in Lansing has bipartisan support.

Democratic state Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) is teaming up with Republican Representative Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) on the issue.

Irwin says it’s a violation of the Fourth Amendment – which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“Warrantless surveillance of where we are and what we’re doing, certainly in my mind falls underneath that definition,” Irwin said.

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Politics & Government
5:12 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

State police, lawmakers look to crack down on schools that ignore emergency drill rules

Snyder's plan addresses school safety after events like the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Office of Governor Rick Snyder Wikimedia Commons

Michigan State Police officials say it’s time to crack down on schools that ignore emergency safety drill rules.

A state police task force says schools should be forced to report when and how safety drills are conducted. Those reports would have to be posted on the schools’ web sites.

Republican state Representative Joe Graves is sponsoring legislation he says will incorporate that and other recommendations.

“So Johnny’s mom and dad and grandparents can go on there and say, ‘Yep, he’s getting trained,’ and it goes throughout the year, distributed evenly.”

The task force is part of Governor Rick Snyder’s plan to address school safety issues after recent tragedies, including the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.

Recent investigations by MLive Media Group suggest many Michigan schools have been breaking laws related to school safety drills.

Business
5:30 pm
Thu July 25, 2013

Private businesses in Michigan to partner with the state on transportation projects?

user theed17 wikimedia commons

The Michigan Department of Transportation is asking businesses whether they’re interested in partnering with the state for certain projects. That could include taking over the building, operating, or financing of infrastructure projects from the state.

Joe Pavona is Governor Rick Snyder’s special advisor on public-private partnerships.

“I think that this is the direction of the future, and I think is consistent with providing improved customer service and value for Michigan,” he says.

Lawmakers in Lansing are debating how to boost transportation spending by more than a billion dollars a year. Pavona says including private businesses in transportation projects could save the state money and time.

But Michigan’s largest state employees union doesn’t like the idea. Ray Holman is with UAW Local 6000.

“You’re talking about services and responsibilities that are vital. And you’re talking about issues of safety, of course. And we believe that certain things are best handled by the state workforce,” he says.

Right now, MDOT is exploring public-private partnerships involving bridge work, freeway lighting, and two rest areas in Northern Michigan.

It says it’s too early to say whether the partnerships would shift public sector jobs to the private sector.

Politics & Government
3:39 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

Michigan Senate unveils own version of Medicaid expansion

The state capitol building
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The state Senate is ready to move forward with its own version of a bill to expand Medicaid in Michigan. A legislative work group today unveiled a plan that keeps the same basic structure of a bill that passed the state House last month.

Changes include adding more incentives for healthy lifestyles and requiring more state reports on the Medicaid program.

Senator Roger Kahn chaired the work group that drafted the proposal. He says he’s confident it will pass both the Senate and the House.

“Do we have differences with the House? Yeah, we have some differences. They aren’t very significant. During the remaining part of the process here, those differences will be addressed and worked out,” he says.

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Transportation
10:59 am
Wed July 24, 2013

Drug and alcohol-related car crashes rise in 2012

A Michigan State Police car.
user GPDII wikimedia commons

Michigan police arrested more drivers for being under the influence of alcohol and drugs in 2012 compared to 2011, according to a report released today by the Michigan State Police.

The study also shows more injuries and fatalities related to impaired driving. Last year, 342 drug and alcohol-related deaths were reported by state officers. In 2011, that number was 319.

But Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning spokesperson Anne Readette say those numbers are still much lower than they were five years ago.

“We are making long-term progress in both of those areas,” Readette said. “So big picture things are moving in the direction we want, but certainly not what we wanted to see on a year-to-year basis.”

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Breaking
5:44 pm
Mon July 22, 2013

Buena Vista, Inkster school districts to be dissolved

Inkster High School
Dwight Burdette wikimedia commons

The Buena Vista and Inkster Public School districts will be dissolved. Both districts missed a 5pm deadline today to prove they had enough money to keep doors open next school year.

Richard Syrek is superintendent of the Saginaw Intermediate School District, which will be responsible for dissolving Buena Vista schools. He says the ISD plans to hold a community meeting Wednesday evening.

“So they can give us some idea of where they would like to go to school next year. Because we have a short period of time at this time to make a decision on what the boundaries are going to be. So we’d like their input.”

Syrek says a number of surrounding school districts say they can accommodate students from Buena Vista in the fall.

Officials with Inkster Public Schools said Comerica Bank was willing to extend a loan to the district. But they say it fell through because state officials would not approve Inkster’s deficit elimination plan first.

Politics & Government
6:40 pm
Wed July 17, 2013

State senator wants to give incentive for any company that builds an oil refinery in Michigan

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A state lawmaker says he has a plan to drive down Michigan’s high gas prices.

Senator Rick Jones says it’s time to build a new oil refinery.   But not everyone’s sold on the plan.

Jones introduced legislation that would give a ten-year property and equipment tax exemption to any company willing to build a new refinery in Michigan.

“And that’s exactly what we need in Michigan to make sure we have adequate supplies,” says Jones.

Jones says more supply means lower prices at the pump.

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Politics & Government
10:45 am
Wed July 17, 2013

State lawmakers begin hearings on Common Core, anger and frustration ensues

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan.
Michigan.gov

Debate is underway in Lansing about whether to implement a set of state school standards.

A state House panel held its first meeting on Common Core State Standards Tuesday.

Republican Representative Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) grilled state Department of Education officials about Common Core. He says the standards take away local control and were developed and adopted without public input.

Meanwhile, state Superintendent State Superintendent Mike Flanagan is urging lawmakers to go forward with a set of nationwide school standards. Flanagan argues that districts would have final say over standards and curriculum.

“Technically, [districts] don’t even have to follow the Common Core,” Flanagan said. “Now, I think they will. It’s a smart...well thought out set of standards.”

Gov. Rick Snyder also supports adopting the Common Core standards.

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Education
6:31 am
Tue July 16, 2013

Detroit Public Schools has a new emergency manager

Jack Martin
U.S Department of Education

After two years as emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools, Roy Roberts has officially left the position. Yesterday, Governor Rick Snyder named current Detroit Chief Financial Officer Jack Martin to replace him.

Martin has also served as emergency manager of Highland Park Schools, and as CFO of the U.S. Department of Education.

Governor Snyder says he expects the transition between Roberts and Martin to be seamless.

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Education
5:13 pm
Fri July 12, 2013

3% boost in public school funding might be wiped away one year later

MSU researchers say Michigan educators could better serve students on the Autism Spectrum Disorder.
user frank juarez Flickr

Michigan schools got about a 3% boost in funding under the state budget passed last month in Lansing, but a new report says that might not be sustainable.

The non-partisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan says the extra money could be wiped out after next year. 

Bob Schneider is the group's state affairs director.

"Unless we find new revenue growth that isn't anticipated yet, or the state draws upon additional general fund resources, or other resources to bring them into the School Aid Budget, the K-12 schools are looking to potentially have to give back a good chunk of the gains that they've made."

The report projects a budget shortfall of about $240 million for the School Aid Budget in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

Schneider says that's partly because of additional state spending commitments to things like teacher retirement and early childhood education.

Law
10:46 am
Thu July 11, 2013

Challenge to union contract that goes around 'right-to-work' dismissed

Right-to-work protesters outside of the state's Capitol building last December.
user david_shane Flickr

A judge in Wayne County has dismissed a lawsuit challenging a school union contract designed to skirt the Michigan’s new right-to-work law.

The Taylor School District signed a new ten-year agreement with its teachers union after the law was passed and before it went into effect. Three Taylor teachers and the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy sued to have the contract thrown out.

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Politics & Government
10:15 am
Wed July 10, 2013

State lawmaker introduces plan to throw out state income tax

Rep. Bob Genetski
Photo courtesy of Michigan House Republicans gophouse.org

There’s a proposal in Lansing to throw out the state’s income tax. The bill would let voters decide whether to keep the tax or get rid of it.

Republican state Representative Bob Genetski (Allegan County) says he’s heard “a lot” of complaints from his constituents about having to pay state income taxes. That’s especially since the state stopped exempting pensions from the tax last year.

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Politics & Government
10:45 am
Mon July 8, 2013

State lawmakers plan to take up bill to revive medical pot dispensaries

Neeta Lind Flickr

A state House panel is likely to take up a bill soon that would revive medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan. Republican lawmakers are starting to take interest in the issue.

Earlier this year, the Michigan Supreme Court handed down a ruling that effectively stopped most marijuana dispensaries from operating in the state. The court ruled that the dispensaries can be shut down as a public nuisance. Now state lawmakers say they’re close to a deal on legislation that would allow and regulate the facilities.

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Law
10:26 am
Tue July 2, 2013

Governor Snyder signs major overhaul of public defense in Michigan

Governor Rick Snyder joins bill sponsors Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) (right) and Sen. Bruce Caswell (R-Hillsdale) (left) at Monday’s indigent defense bill signing.
Jake Neher

Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation Monday that will make sweeping changes to the state’s public defense system.

Snyder says the new law is a big step toward making sure fewer indigent criminal defendants are wrongfully convicted. It will create a commission to set statewide standards for public defense. The group will also monitor counties to make sure each one is meeting those standards.

The governor says there’s still a lot of work to do before the state can expect to see improvements. He said, “It will take some time to implement this. But this is something we will be very diligent about the follow-through to make sure it happens right.”

The bills passed the state House and Senate last month with bi-partisan support.

Politics & Government
5:08 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Committee to begin work on Michigan Medicaid expansion next week

State Senator Randy Richardville at the state Capitol
Photo courtesy of www.senate.michigan.gov

A state Senate panel is expected to start discussing a bill next week to expand Medicaid in Michigan.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) expects a vote in the full Senate before September.

The Majority Leader has been taking some heat from Governor Rick Snyder since last week.

That’s when Richardville allowed the Senate to leave on its summer recess before taking a vote on Medicaid expansion. But Richardville defended the decision today on the Michigan Public Television program Off the Record.

“I don’t think this legislation is complete. I don’t think we had the votes to get things done that day, and it would have been forcing a less-than-adequate package to his desk,” said Richardville.

The governor says the state stands to lose millions of federal dollars if the legislation isn’t approved soon.

That’s because the plan needs to be approved by Washington – a process that will likely take months. But Richardville said he doesn’t want to rush the legislation if it’s not ready.

"I understand that he has to talk to the federal government, and these waivers are going to be difficult to negotiate," said Richardville. "But I think we’ll have a product for him to look at before July is over."

Richardville says he generally supports the idea of overhauling and expanding Medicaid.

“But we have some other reforms, some other things that we think should be done to make this legislation better. And we need a little time to look at it,” he said.

Meanwhile, a legislative workgroup is also trying to get the bill ready for a vote. The workgroup originally consisted of six Republican senators.

But Richardville now says he plans to add some Democrats to the group as well.

Richardville says he expects to have a proposal in place before August, and a vote of the full Senate before September.

Politics & Government
5:41 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Michigan governor admits a vote on Medicaid expansion next week is unlikely

State's that have adopted Medicaid expansion are in blue.
Avalere Health, LLC

Governor Rick Snyder has he doesn’t expect a vote next week to expand Medicaid in Michigan.

The governor is traveling the state trying to pressure lawmakers to act on the bill.

Governor Snyder wanted the state Senate to approve the Medicaid expansion last week before it adjourned for the summer. Then he said he wanted a vote on July 3 – the next day the Senate could meet.

Now he says a vote absolutely has to happen before fall.

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