Jake Neher

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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