Rick Pluta

Reporter / Producer - Michigan Public Radio Network

Rick Pluta has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.

Rick was one of the first Michigan political reporters to write about “pay-to-play” fundraising, and the controversies surrounding recognition of same-sex relationships. He broke the news that Gov. John Engler was planning a huge juvenile justice overhaul that included adult-time-for-adult-crime sentencing, and has continued to report since then on the effects of that policy decision.

He co-hosts the weekly segment “It’s Just Politics” on Michigan Radio with Zoe Clark.

Rick is fascinated by the game of politics, and the grand plans and human foibles that go into policy-making. You will never find him ice-fishing.

Follow him on Twitter at @rickpluta


Republican candidate Ted Cruz brought his presidential campaign to Michigan and Kalamazoo today.

Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, was greeted enthusiastically.


“We need to bring the power out of Washington and back to ‘we the people!” That is what this campaign is about!” Cruz told the cheering crowd of several hundred people.

With the hand-wringing over what appears to be short-term, hasty-decision-making in Flint (the move by a state-appointed emergency manager to try and save money by breaking away from Detroit’s water system and to, instead, pull water from the the highly corrosive Flint River), the city’s water crisis has now become a political crisis as well.

micropterus_dolomieu / Wikimedia commons

A state lawmaker wants to make sure commercial fish farms will never be allowed to operate in portions of the Great Lakes controlled by Michigan.

State Senator Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, says commercial fish farming could create a huge problem with waste.

“This waste could create algae blooms, all sorts of problems on the shore, as well as out on the lake,” he says.


Governor Rick Snyder acknowledges the decision to switch the city of Flint’s water system was not vetted the way it should have been. The city faces a crisis now that the water going to homes is contaminated by lead.

“In terms of a mistake, I would say is there are probably things that were not as fully understood as when that switch was made,” he said.

People moving from Syria into Turkey.
European Commission DG ECHO

Gov. Rick Snyder says he’d like Michigan to welcome more refugees fleeing war and violence in the Middle East.

The governor told the new Michigan Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs he’s already been in touch with the federal government.

The Michigan presidential primary is underway. And by that we really mean that the ‘endorsements primary’ is underway.

You’ve got a friend

With 162 days until Michigan voters decide who they want to be their Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, the focus right now is really on the Republican side of things. 

Phil Dowsing Creative / Flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court has refused to hear a case that alleges the state and the struggling Highland Park school district are failing in their legal obligation to adequately educate students.

The so-called “right-to-read” lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Former Michigan Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat.
From Courser/Gamrat websites

A Republican legislator is drafting a bill to ensure that state lawmakers who are expelled or quit remain out of office. But, it’s not clear if it’s possible to stop former Representatives Todd Courser or Cindy Gamrat from running for and winning their old jobs.

Ben Carson Twitter / https://twitter.com/realbencarson

Republican presidential hopeful Doctor Ben Carson made a campaign swing through Michigan today.

Carson made stops in Jackson and Spring Arbor University. He told an audience at the Christian college the U.S. is a “Judeo-Christian nation,” and immigrants should not be allowed to change the character of the country.

Carson told the crowd “secular-progressives” are trying to force change upon the country.

Former Michigan Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat.
From Courser/Gamrat websites

State elections officials say there’s nothing in the law that says former Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat can’t run for their old seats in the upcoming special election.

Both filed after Gamrat was expelled by a two-thirds vote of the state House, and Courser quit as he was about to be removed. The two tea party lawmakers were embroiled in a sex-and-cover-up scandal.

A weekend of Republican partying on Mackinac Island wrapped up yesterday after 2,200 people with the time (and money) attended the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan Republicans have wrapped up their leadership conference on Mackinac Island. Senator Rand Paul won a straw poll of the 2,200 Republicans in attendance. Paul told the conference he’s the candidate who will shake things up.

Cindy Gamrat speaking at an August 14, 2015 press conference.
screen shot - LiveStream

Cindy Gamrat says she will run in the special election for the seat she was expelled from six days ago. The Allegan County Clerk’s office confirmed she filed for the special election. The primary for the seat will be held Nov. 3.

Gamrat was removed last week by a two-thirds vote of the House over her role in a sex-and-cover-up scandal. She says that decision was not fair to her voters.

The "Pure Michigan" campaign highlights beautiful and memorable places and experiences in Michigan.
user PunkToad / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The state agency responsible for handling the Pure Michigan campaign and other economic development activities is shrinking.

The Legislature has cut funding to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and it’s lost American Indian casino revenue due to a dispute over the Michigan Lottery’s online gaming.

Gov. Rick Snyder
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

The immigration question is causing turmoil in the Republican presidential primary, but Governor Rick Snyder is standing by his staunchly pro-immigration position. Snyder has declared this “Welcoming Week” with a particular focus on honoring immigrants.   

Snyder spokesman Dave Murray says immigrants are responsible for starting some of Michigan’s biggest and most-recognized businesses, including the Meijer retail chain, Vlasic pickles, and Dow Chemical. 

“The Establishment Strikes Back” could be a very apropos title for the latest episode of the Todd Courser-Cindy Gamrat saga.

That’s the one where Republican leaders (with some help from Democrats) succeeded in booting the prominent and troublesome Tea Partiers from the state Legislature.

Former Michigan Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat.
From Courser/Gamrat websites

State Rep. Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, resigned early this morning as the House was about to vote on expelling him. That capped a 15-hour session with three earlier efforts that were thwarted. Courser says he called it quits because he could see how it would wind up.

Rep. Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, and Rep. Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell, returned to the state capitol today.
images from Courser/Gamrat offices

Update 2:15 p.m.

Rep. Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell, says she's "shocked" a panel is recommending expulsion for her involvement in a bizarre cover-up attempt of her extramarital affair with another lawmaker.

Gamrat tells The Associated Press she won't resign before the House votes, possibly later Thursday. She says while no promises were made, she "was coerced" to admit to various allegations of wrongdoing with an understanding that the committee would support a censure.

Todd Courser
Rick Pluta / MPRN

  A special state House disciplinary panel will begin deliberating on a punishment for state Representatives Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, and Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell, after wrapping up two days of hearings and testimony.

State Representative Cindy Gamrat (R-Plainwell) weeps as she delivers an apology to the House committee considering disciplinary action against her and state Representative Todd Courser (R-Lapeer).
Rick Pluta / MPRN

State Rep. Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell, offered a tearful apology this morning as hearings opened on possible disciplinary action against her and Rep. Todd Courser, R-Lapeer.

She begged for forgiveness and asked for censure rather than being removed from office.

The special state House committee set up to look into the conduct of Republican state Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat is scheduled to meet tomorrow and Wednesday.

Reps. Courser and Gamrat are accused of using state resources to, among other things, cover up an extramarital affair.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent. Enbridge performs inspections, but won't share what they find.
Credit an Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

The state of Michigan has signed a deal with Enbridge Energy that heavy crude oil will not be shipped through a pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

But the agreement doesn’t change anything as far as protecting the Great Lakes.

Enbridge Line 5 wasn’t built to carry heavy crude oil and never has. 

Washtenaw County Prosecutor's office

Officials say a backlog of more than 11,000 untested rape kits found in an abandoned Detroit crime lab is almost cleared. In some instances, the cases go back more than three decades. But, some victims will still have to wait years for justice.

The untested rape kits were discovered six years ago. A combined state, local and private sector effort was launched to clear the backlog.          

Former Michigan Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat.
From Courser/Gamrat websites

A select committee will begin its work to help whether state Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat will keep their jobs following a just-released internal investigation that says the two are guilty of misconduct.


The report by the non-partisan House Business Office says the two tea party lawmakers used state computers, staff and other resources for a variety of political and personal purposes, including efforts to cover up their extra-marital affair.

Once again lawmakers are starting over as another road funding plan collapsed late last week in Lansing.

What really happened?

The latest effort to come up with more than a billion dollars for roads had pitted Republicans against Republicans. The GOP has a 63 to 46 advantage over Democrats in the state House, and a 27 to 11 margin in the state Senate. Those numbers led to the idea that GOP leaders could develop a Republican-only roads solution without having to deal with the Democrats.

Rep. Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, and Rep. Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell, returned to the state capitol today.
images from Courser/Gamrat offices

The state House has taken an initial step toward disciplining two lawmakers caught up in a sex-and-cover-up scandal. The House adopted a resolution to create a special committee to “examine the qualifications” of state Representatives Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, and Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell.

The tea party-affiliated lawmakers face questions over whether they used public resources in a plot to cover up their extra-marital affair. 

The Michigan unemployment rate (red line) graphed with the overall labor force in Michigan (blue line).
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s monthly unemployment rate dropped to 5.3% (the red line in the graph above). That’s the lowest it’s been in 14 years, and it matches the national average.

But the drop this month is due mostly to fewer people out looking for work.

More from the Michigan Department of Labor, Technology and Budget office press release:

MSU football players approach the field.
Matt Radick / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Michigan Court of Appeals says Michigan State University must release the names of student-athletes who may be suspects in criminal cases.

MSU redacted the names of witnesses, victims, and suspects from campus incident reports requested by the sports network ESPN as part of its investigation into which colleges are most lenient with student-athletes who are suspected of crimes. ESPN did not object to striking the names of witnesses and victims, but said the names of the suspects were necessary to its investigation.


One of the key figures in a cover-up scandal that’s rocked the state Capitol is expected to speak out tomorrow.

State Representative Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell, has remained silent and out of public view since the scandal broke last week. House leaders are looking into allegations that she and state Representative Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, tried to force their office staffs to be part of a scheme to cover up their extra-marital affair. Both are vocal social conservatives and part of the tea party movement. 

Wikimedia Commons

A group of unions has launched a petition drive to double Michigan’s corporate income tax and use the additional revenue for roads.

Union leader Tom Lutz is with the Citizens for Fair Taxes Campaign. He says corporations should have to give back about half the net tax reductions that resulted from the state’s 2011 business tax overhaul.