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
10:58 am
Tue June 18, 2013

Tea Party: GOP lawmakers who vote for Medicaid bill should expect primary battles

Tea Party members attend a pre-election rally in Jackson, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Tea Party activists are threatening to put up primary challengers against Republican lawmakers who vote to expand Medicaid in Michigan.

The bill would add hundreds of thousands of Michiganders to the Medicaid rolls under the federal healthcare law.

The legislation cleared the state House last week. The state Senate is likely to take up the legislation this week.

Tea Party groups claim it would be the biggest expansion of state government in more than four decades.  They say Republican votes in favor of the bill warrant a primary challenge next year.

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Politics & Government
10:56 am
Tue June 18, 2013

Governor Snyder meets with Israeli PM on trade mission

Gov. Snyder meets Israeli PM Netanyahu
Rick Snyder @Onetoughnerd Instagram

Governor Rick Snyder sat down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday.

Snyder believes the talks could lead to new partnerships between companies in Michigan and Israel.

The governor is on a nine-day investment mission to Israel. He says the two states already have strong economic and cultural ties. But he says there’s lots of room for new partnerships and investment.

Snyder Spokesperson Ken Silfven says Prime Minister Netanyahu was “very receptive” to the governor’s ideas.

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Politics & Government
4:38 pm
Fri June 14, 2013

Snyder leaves for Israel on a trade mission

Flag of Israel.
Tim (Timothy) Pearce Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder leaves today for a nine-day trade mission to Israel. He’s hoping to create business connections and encourage Israeli investment in Michigan.

But Snyder says he won’t be starting from scratch when he gets there.

“We already do a fair amount of business with Israel. We’re one of the top-20 states for both imports and exports going on with Israel. So I think it’s a great opportunity to build stronger economic ties and cultural ties given all the historical connections between our state and Israel.”

Additionally, the Governor says that Israel is looking to expand its marketplace globally.

“And if you look at Detroit’s role and the strong Jewish community here and the great business environment we’ve created over the last few years, Michigan should really be a gateway – in particular the Metro Detroit area should be a gateway – for Israeli businesses to do business in the United States.”

The governor also plans to speak with Israeli education officials. He says he’s especially interested in learning about their early childhood education programs.

This is Snyder’s fifth corporate-sponsored trip oversees, and his first to the Middle East. 

Politics & Government
9:37 am
Fri June 14, 2013

Medicaid expansion clears state House, goes to Senate

Thomas Anderson Flickr

The state House has approved a plan to overhaul and expand Medicaid in Michigan. The bill passed the House with bipartisan support.

State lawmakers have been debating for months whether to add hundreds of thousands of Michiganders to the Medicaid rolls under the federal healthcare law. It also creates incentives for healthy lifestyles, and would eventually require some Medicaid patients to pay more toward the cost of their healthcare.

Democratic state Representative Brandon Dillon praised Republican House leadership for taking a vote on the bill.

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Politics & Government
11:46 am
Thu June 13, 2013

Legislators in Lansing pass fix to Michigan’s fireworks law

The Parade Company via theparade.org

A bill to fix Michigan’s fireworks law is headed to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk. The state Legislature passed the legislation almost unanimously.

Last year, state lawmakers legalized high powered fireworks for consumer use. That sparked thousands of complaints from across the state about loud blasts into the early morning hours.

Harold Haugh (D-Roseville) is the bill’s sponsor. He says he’s received thousands of complaints about loud blasts into the early morning hours.

"So we tried to take all of the inputs that we could and put it into a common sense approach," explained Haugh. "And obviously with the votes, my colleagues in both the House and Senate – both Democrat and Republican alike – agreed with what we had put together."

The bill would allow local governments to prohibit overnight fireworks use on and around national holidays. Municipalities are already able to restrict fireworks the rest of the year.

Haugh says he expects Governor Snyder to sign the bill in time for July Fourth.

Politics & Government
11:44 am
Thu June 13, 2013

State lawmakers a step closer to approving Medicaid expansion, overhaul

The chamber of Michigan's House of Representatives in Lansing. Leaders in the Michigan legislature and Governor Granholm are close to an agreement on the budget.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are moving forward with a plan to expand Medicaid in Michigan after months of debate. A state House panel approved the measure yesterday, and the full House is expected to vote on it today.

Republicans on the committee were split on the legislation. Many said they were not willing to support legislation that would further entrench the federal Affordable Care Act in Michigan. 

The federal government says it’ll foot the entire bill for Medicaid expansion through 2016, and at least 90 percent after that.

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Economy
5:28 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

Michigan universities producing entrepreneurs faster than national average

U of M's new venture accelerator will connect startups with talent and funding
Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan

Michigan’s three biggest universities are producing young entrepreneurs twice as fast as the national average.

That’s according to a report by East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group released today at a conference of business leaders and politicians on Mackinac Island.

Debbie Dingell is chair of the Wayne State University Board of Governors.

“What’s clear is that we in Michigan have young people with ideas, and we’re giving them a university system that’s giving them the tools that they need to actually go out and start that business,” said Debbie Dingell, chair of the Wayne State University Board of Governors.

The report says almost half of the new businesses started by college grads have been started or acquired in Michigan.

University officials say they’ve revamped their curriculum in recent years to encourage entrepreneurship among students.

Politics & Government
4:01 pm
Wed May 29, 2013

Education budget clears Michigan Legislature, goes to Gov. Snyder's desk

Christopher Webb Flickr

The Michigan Senate has passed a budget bill that would boost state funding to public schools by about 3%. Universities and colleges would also get a roughly 2% increase.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R- Monroe) praised the schools budget, saying it addresses issues like teacher retirement costs while giving more money to districts.

“The education budget this year may be the best that I’ve seen since I’ve been up here,” said Richardville.

But many Democrats say the plan does not do enough to make up for cuts to education over the past couple of years.

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Politics & Government
10:36 am
Wed May 29, 2013

More money for schools and local governments?

Are lawmakers opening up the purse strings?

State lawmakers are getting close to wrapping next year’s budget. The state House has passed bills to fund schools and state government through next fiscal year.

Public School Funding

Every school would see at least a five-dollar per-pupil boost. Schools getting the minimum amount from the state could receive up to $60 more per student.
    
Democratic state Representative Brandon Dillon says he’s happy no schools will see cuts in state support, but he says it still doesn’t come close to adequately funding public schools.

"You know, it’s better than last year," he said. "But our standards for excellence in school funding have diminished significantly. And it’s still not enough to educate kids, especially kids in high poverty, high needs districts, and our urban districts."

Democrats are also criticizing the bill for cutting funds that would go toward implementing the federal Common Core curriculum standards in schools.

They say those funding cuts put Michigan schools at risk of losing federal dollars.

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Politics & Government
5:08 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Lawmakers seek to shorten the amount of time to stop a bank foreclosure

A foreclosed house in Michigan.
Rebecca Williams The Environment Report

Opponents of a plan to change the foreclosure process in Michigan say it would put more people out of their homes and hurt property values.

They were in Lansing today to protest a package of bills in the state Legislature.

The legislation would shorten the amount of time homeowners have to stop a bank foreclosure from six months to two months.

Ingham County Register of Deeds Curtis Hertel Jr. says banks have wrongly foreclosed on thousands of properties across the state.

He says it often takes months for people to prove they don’t deserve to lose their home.

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Education
3:14 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Michigan public schools could get a funding boost

School work
Jane M Sawyer morgue file

Michigan public schools would get a three-percent overall funding boost under a plan in the state Legislature.

It comes up for final votes next week.

No school would get less money per student than it did last year under a plan approved by a state budget panel.

Lawmakers added language that would guarantee every school gets at least five dollars more per student than last year. Without that provision, some schools could have seen cuts because of reduced payments to cover teacher retirement costs. 

Schools that get the minimum amount of state funding right now could see up to $60 more per student next fiscal year. That total amount is right around $7,000 per student.

The bill now goes to the floors of the state House and Senate.

Education
5:13 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Performance pay for teachers moves forward in state House

The state House.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

A state House panel has approved a plan to tie teachers’ pay to student performance. But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they’re worried the bill would strip away local control.

Bill supporters say just because someone has been teaching for a long time, that doesn’t mean they’re a great teacher. They say educators should be paid more if their students are making progress, and less if they’re not.

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Environment & Science
5:07 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Wolf hunt law headed for 2014 ballot

USFWS Flickr

A referendum to let voters decide the fate of a law that allows wolf hunts in northern Michigan will appear on the November 2014 ballot.

The campaign’s petitions to get on the ballot were certified today by a state elections board.

Jill Fritz leads the campaign Keep Michigan Wolves Protected.

"We’re going to start our educational campaign to get the issue out there and educate the voters about the issue, and look forward to seeing the people of Michigan speak out against wolf hunting and trapping in the November-2014 election," Fritz said.

The ballot campaign still has to make a decision on what to do about a second law that allows the state to establish wolf hunts, including one to be held in November of this year.

It was passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Rick Snyder after the petition drive was launched earlier this year.

Fritz says a lawsuit is not out of the question.

The law was passed as a way to help control wolves that have moved into populated parts of the western U.P.

Education
10:29 am
Wed May 22, 2013

New student safety hotline aims to stop school violence before it happens

user BES Photos Flickr

State officials say students need new and better ways to report threats of school violence. Officials plan to create a new anonymous tip-line that would include a mobile app for tech-savvy teens.

The program would let students send in tips by phone, text message, email, or the mobile app - which accepts photos and videos.

They call “OK-2-SAY”.

Michigan State Police Director Kriste Etue says it’s crucial to remove as many barriers as possible for teens with possibly life-saving information.

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Politics & Government
4:48 pm
Mon May 20, 2013

Advocates for the poor: Restore Earned Income Tax Credit with tax windfall

The Capitol in Lansing.
CedarBendDrive/flickr

A group that advocates for working poor families in Michigan says the state should use a recent tax windfall to restore low income tax credits. Last week, the state announced it expects to receive close to half-a-billion dollars more than originally thought this year.

Gilda Jacobs, with the Michigan League for Public Policy, says it makes sense to give some of that money back to low-income taxpayers.

“In part, one of the reasons that there are greater revenues is because the tax burden, the tax shift, was shifted back to low- and middle-income people and seniors,” she said.

She says working poor families have been negatively affected.

“And there is an opportunity through restoration, or partial restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit to help make whole some of that tax increase,” said Jacobs.

Governor Rick Snyder and state lawmakers have scaled back the Earned Income Tax Credit in recent years. They say the same credit at the federal level does enough to help the state’s working poor.

Democrats in the state Legislature have introduced bills to at least partially restore the credit.

Gov. Snyder says the money from the tax windfall should go toward fixing roads.

Politics & Government
10:22 am
Sat May 11, 2013

Snyder administration has concerns about Medicaid plan, but says it's a good start

Governor Rick Snyder's administration is "encouraged" by a House Republican plan to overhaul Medicaid in the state. 

But it's concerned about language that would kick able-bodied adults off the program after four years.

Department of community Health director Jim Haveman says the House plan is "a good starting point" for negotiations.

"I'm really cautiously optimistic that, by the time this is done over the next two weeks, we'll have a bill that we all can be very supportive of and we can collectively go sell and get the waiver from the federal government."

The federal government is offering to pay for an expansion of Medicaid that would add hundreds of thousands of Michiganders to the program. But Republican leaders in the state Legislature say they're not willing to expand the system without major changes.

Washington would have to approve the state's alternative to the plan.

Politics & Government
5:30 pm
Thu May 9, 2013

State lawmakers introduce bill to overhaul, expand Medicaid

Jase Bolger says they're offering an alternative to Medicaid expansion.
gophouse.com

Republicans in the state House have introduced a bill to overhaul and expand Medicaid in Michigan.

Among other things, it would limit able-bodied adults to four years in the program.

The Republican-led state Legislature has balked at the idea of accepting money from the federal government to add hundreds of thousands of people to Medicaid.

House Speaker Jase Bolger says this is an alternative to that plan.

“If we are going to say ‘no’ to something, we must offer an alternative. We ask that all of the time from our colleagues across the aisle, and therefore we’re going to continue to live by that ourselves,” said Bolger.

The bill would also require the federal government to fund 100 percent of the expansion.

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Energy
5:05 pm
Thu May 9, 2013

State auctions mineral rights as 'anti-fracking' groups gather

A natural gas well.
World Resources Institute

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – are blasting Michigan officials for opening more state lands to oil and gas companies. They held a rally in Lansing today as state officials auctioned the mineral rights for tens of thousands of acres of state land.

Fracking is a controversial process of extracting natural gas from deep underground.

Jim Nash is Oakland County’s water resources commissioner. He says the state needs to do more to protect against possible spills from fracking wells.

"We have fairly strict laws in Michigan, but we only have 22 people that actually do inspections," said Nash. "So it’s mostly self-reporting of incidents. That’s great if you have an honest company. But if you have a dishonest company that’s cutting corners already, they’re not going to report a bad accident."

The state Department of Environmental Quality says companies have been fracking in Michigan for decades without any significant environmental incidents.

Education
5:43 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

Bill would link Michigan teachers' pay to student growth

Credit clarita / MorgueFile

New teachers in Michigan would be paid based primarily on student growth under a bill in Lansing.

But some lawmakers question whether now is the right time to take up the issue.

The state Legislature is still waiting on a report that will recommend a state-wide teacher evaluation system.

Lawmakers like Rep. David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights) say they should wait to see what the report says before they switch to a merit-pay system for teachers.

“I don’t know why we’re jumping the gun on this. We should be waiting for what the commission comes back and says to us is the proper course of action," Knezek says.  “I don’t think the two necessarily, one has to be before the other.”

Bill sponsor Pete Lund (R-Shelby Township) says the commission’s recommendation could be more useful if they already have a system in place. Lund says tying educators’ pay to their performance in the classroom would promote student growth and weed out bad teachers.

“We no longer say you are a better teacher just because you’ve been teaching for a long time," Lund says. "If teaching a long time has helped you, your students will grow, they will be better students, they will learn more, and you’ll be properly compensated properly for it.”

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Education
5:05 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

U.S. education secretary, Snyder tour EAA and DPS schools

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Governor Rick Snyder read to preschoolers at Thirkell Elementary School in Detroit Monday.
Jake Neher MPRN

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says public schools in Detroit have improved in the last four years. Duncan was in Detroit today with Governor Rick Snyder. They toured a traditional public school and a school in the state’s Education Achievement Authority.

The EAA is a controversial state-run authority meant to turn around failing schools. Based on his tour today, Duncan says the EAA shows promise.

“Obviously, long long way to go, and there’ll be bumps in the road and hurdles. But my only goal is to see every child be successful,” said Duncan. “I think the only way we get there is if, again, the EAA is successful, the Detroit public schools are successful, charters are successful. We just need great public schools across the state and across the country.”

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