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. 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.

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It's Just Politics
6:12 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Can the GOP maintain that Tea Party love and win mid-term elections?

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

History suggests that this election year should be friendly to Republicans. That’s because Republicans are more likely to turn out in mid-term elections than Democrats, and the party out of the White House, especially in a president’s second term, tends to have an advantage. With about six and a half months to go before the November election, a lot of Republicans are harboring hopes that this is going to be a good year to be a Republican.

But here’s a question: Which kind of Republican is it best to be this year?

In Michigan -- just like nationally -- there’s some tension between the three threads of the GOP coalition. That’s the  Establishment Republicans, the Tea Party, and the Liberty Movement.

We’ll get a better idea of how big this fight is (and if it’s a fight at all worth talking about) after this coming Tuesday’s filing deadline. We’ll see exactly where and how many Tea Partiers will “primary” an establishment Republican figure, and where the Republican establishment (and by that we mean chamber of commerce Republicans) will try to dislodge a Tea Partier from Congress or the Legislature.

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Law
9:09 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Schuette asks for fast action on gay marriage case

“The sooner we have a more thoughtful and complete and full review of this case, I think the better off everybody is, but I think we want a resolution on it,” Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a conference call.
Credit Michigan Attorney General

  State Attorney General Bill Schuette has asked a federal appeals court to put the legal challenge to Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage on a fast track. Schuette is defending Michigan’s ban.

Schuette’s filed a motion with the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to skip a hearing before a three judge panel and go directly to the entire 15-judge court. That could shave months, maybe as much as a year, off the appeals process. Schuette says the question needs to settled regardless of who wins in the end. 

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It's Just Politics
2:53 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Will POTUS visits, petition drive help turn out Obama voters?

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

President Obama was in Ann Arbor this week at the University of Michigan to throw his Democratic base some red meat* by stumping for the minimum wage. He called on Congress to pass legislation to boost the national minimum wage and he also endorsed a petition drive under way in Michigan to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.40 an hour to $10.10 an hour by 2017.

Democrats’ hopes of keeping control of the U.S. Senate in 2014 rest largely with keeping the seat that Sen. Carl Levin is retiring from later this year. Republicans appear to be in good shape come November because their voters are typically more likely to turn out in the off cycle, and because the party out of the White House typically does well in midterm elections.

Republicans also think they can win by relentlessly reminding the public of Obamacare. But what if Democrats can jujitsu that? That’s the political point of these presidential visits.

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Environment & Science
6:55 am
Wed April 2, 2014

State replies to Army Corps invasive species report

Credit Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has filed the state’s response to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' invasive species report. Schuette says his biggest complaint is the report fails to outline an aggressive plan to stop Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.              

The report came out in January, and it outlines possibilities without making specific recommendations on what should happen next.

That was a disappointment, says Joy Yearout, Schuette’s communications director.

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Politics & Government
5:11 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

U.S. Rep. Dave Camp says he won't seek re-election

Credit user republicanconference / Flickr

Michigan Congressman Dave Camp has announced he will not seek reelection this year. Camp joins a string of Michigan congressional veterans who’ve said they plan to sit out this year’s election.

Camp’s office sent out this statement:

“Today, I am announcing that I will not seek re-election to the United States House of Representatives.  This decision was reached after much consideration and discussion with my family.

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It's Just Politics
3:05 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Politicos must do some fast thinking if they want Rogers’ seat

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

A political stunner slapped all of our political cheeks awake this morning, just like that scene with Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.

The news? Seven-term Republican Congressman Mike Rogers announced he is retiring from Congress. Retiring from Congress, but not the political circus. He is going to start a national radio show devoted to foreign policy and national defense, which is his bailiwick as the Chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee.

Rogers is also a well-known talking head. Last year, he appeared more than any other elected official on the Sunday morning news circuit. And he’s got the TV sound bites down, just last week on Meet the Press, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin, “goes to bed thinking of Peter the Great and wakes up thinking of Stalin.”

It’s not just how fond he seemed of Congress that is what makes Rogers’, who represents Lansing, Brighton, Howell and parts of Northern Oakland County, announcement so surprising, but his fondness in particular for the House of Representatives. In fact, there was speculation last year that the reason he didn’t jump into the race for Carl Levin’s open Senate seat was because he enjoyed his job in the House so much.

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Politics & Government
11:53 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Democrats ask for recognition of recent gay marriages in Michigan

The Rev. Bill Freeman signs marriage licenses and performs cermonies at Harbor Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Muskegon.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan's congressional Democrats are asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for federal recognition of the more than 300 same-sex marriages performed in the state this past weekend. The letter is signed by Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, and Reps. John Dingell, Sander Levin, Gary Peters and Dan Kildee.

A judge ruled last Friday that Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, but the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals put a hold on further same-sex weddings while it deliberates the Michigan marriage case.

Yesterday, Gov. Snyder said the marriages performed over the weekend in Michigan are legal, but they cannot be officially recognized by the state because of current law. Here's what he said:

In January, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the government would honor same-sex marriages in Utah in a case very similar to Michigan's. The Justice Department so far has said it's monitoring the situation in Michigan.

Law
6:44 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Appeals court keeps stay on Michigan same-sex marriages in place

Credit Michigan Radio

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has extended the freeze on same-sex marriages in Michigan. The court granted the state’s request to put a hold on last week’s decision that struck down Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional.      

The panel’s 2-1 ruling continues the legal limbo of more than 300 gay and lesbian couples who were married during the weekend window before the door was closed.

Four county clerks opened their doors over the weekend to issue marriage licenses before they were stopped by the Sixth Circuit.      

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Developing
4:00 pm
Sat March 22, 2014

Same-sex couples flock to clerks' offices to wed ahead of temporary stay

Jere Clausen and Bruce Walters were the first gay couple to be married in Muskegon County this morning.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Update 5:05 p.m.

In a reversal from what it signaled earlier in the day, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a temporary stay on the decision to strike down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage. 

The court said it issued the stay to allow a "more reasoned consideration" of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's request for a hold on Friday's decision.

3:43 p.m.

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Breaking
5:23 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Michigan's gay marriage ban struck down

April DeBoer, left, and Jayne Rowse sued the state to gain joint adoption rights to their children. The judge expanded the case to include the state's same-sex marriage ban.
DeBoer Rowse Adoption Legal Fund

Update 8:27 am:

Rick Pluta reports from Ingham County that the first marriage there was performed at 8:05 am.

7:21 am Saturday:

Now four counties – Washtenaw, Oakland, Muskegon and Ingham – plan to open this morning to issue marriage licenses. Come back for updates from our reporters in the field.

Update 11 pm Friday:

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It's Just Politics
2:41 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Could the Supreme Court stop lies in political ads?

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

The political campaign ad season is upon us. We’ve already seen the first trickle of ads here in Michigan, but we know the spigot is barely open at this point.

And, this brings us to an interesting court case out of Ohio that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in just over a month. At issue is whether a state can preemptively enforce a ban on a supposedly false and misleading political advertisement.

This started when the Republican independent committee the Susan B. Anthony List wanted to put up a billboard that accused an Ohio congressman of supporting taxpayer-funded abortions. The Congressman cried foul under an Ohio law that forbids knowingly or recklessly making false or misleading statements about candidates.

The billboard never went up after the congressman threatened to file a legal complaint. But the Susan B. Anthony List and some other groups challenged the law. That lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality and that was upheld by the U.S Sixth. Circuit Court of Appeals – of which Michigan is a part.

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Law
10:40 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

New rules for scrapyards head to governor for signature

The legislation would create end same-day cash payments of more than $50.
loopkid Flickr

New rules that are supposed to reduce the sale of stolen metal and car parts cleared are headed to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk. “Scrapping” is a big obstacle to Detroit’s redevelopment.

Critics say the measure has too many loopholes. Democratic State Sen. Coleman Young of Detroit says the new rules aren’t perfect, but they will help solve the problem.

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Politics & Government
10:34 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Bill to expand statewide district for 'failing' schools gets House OK

Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

The state House has approved by a one-vote majority Governor Rick Snyder’s plan to expand the agency that’s supposed to turn around some of Michigan’s most-troubled schools. The Education Achievement Authority is currently running 15 schools in Detroit.

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Law
8:45 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

Snyder: Treat e-cigarettes like tobacco

How an e-cigarette works
e-cigarettedirect.com

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants electronic cigarettes to be regulated in Michigan as tobacco products. E-cigarettes deliver a dose of nicotine to users in a mist. There is a bill in the Legislature to ban e-cigarette sales to minors, but would not tax them like cigarettes or subject them to other tobacco-related regulations.

The governor says it makes more sense to simply treat them as a tobacco product.

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It's Just Politics
3:07 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

How many wolf hunt questions can we squeeze onto the November ballot?

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It looks like a referendum on the controversial issue of wolf-hunting is headed to the November ballot – again. This will be the second hunting-related ballot question (and, possibly, not the last) voters will decide in a little less than eight months.

The Keep Michigan Wolves Protected Campaign turned in petition signatures to the state Bureau of Elections just yesterday. It takes 161,305 signatures, and we can reasonably expect the campaign has enough names. Because, after all, they’ve done this before.

Most recently, just last year, when Keep Michigan Wolves Protected filed enough signatures to suspend and challenge the first Michigan wolf hunting law adopted after the gray wolf was taken off the federal endangered species list. That is the first referendum challenge and it is already on the November ballot.

But the Legislature, as well as Gov. Rick Snyder, would not be thwarted. They adopted a second law to allow wolf hunting (among other things), and that is the target of this newest referendum campaign.

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Environment & Science
5:04 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Wolf hunt referendum petitions filed

endangeredspecieslawandpolicy.com

The campaign to repeal Michigan’s new wolf hunting law filed petitions today to put their challenge on the November ballot.

The Keep Michigan Wolves Protected Campaign says it has 225,000 signatures. That’s well over the 161,305 needed to qualify for the November ballot.

This would be the second hunting referendum on the ballot. The Legislature passed a new hunting law to sidestep an earlier petition drive and referendum.    

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Politics & Government
8:30 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Campaign to stop wolf hunt to turn in petitions

USFWS Midwest

The campaign to stop wolf hunts in Michigan says it has more than enough petition signatures to get a referendum on the November ballot. This would be the second ballot challenge to a wolf hunt because the state’s first wolf hunting law was blocked by a petition challenge that will also go before voters in November.

The Legislature got around that by passing a new law that’s the target of this ballot drive.

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Politics & Government
8:27 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Budget bill with roadwork money headed to Gov. Snyder

Jake Neher MPRN

The Legislature has approved a mid-year budget bill that includes $215 million for roads. It now goes to Governor Rick Snyder.

State Representative Joe Haveman chairs the House Appropriations Committee. He says a lot of the money will go to reimburse local governments for money they’ve already spent clearing streets and patching potholes.

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It's Just Politics
1:26 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

White men coveted by Dems and GOP this November

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

There was an interesting article this week in The New York Times with a strong focus on politics in Michigan. It dealt with a particular aspect of the Democratic Party’s trouble winning in off-presidential years: the coveted white male voter. Yes, working class, high school-educated, married white men are wanted.

Republicans, in fact, have relied on dominance among white males to win elections for many, many years now. And a lot has been made of the fact that right now Republicans are facing big troubles winning over minority voters - African American, Hispanic - as well as immigrants and single women, a weakness that Democrats have been able to use.

But Democrats have been, for many years, losing the white male vote. Remember the Reagan Democrats? White, blue collar, many of them union members, with a strong presence in southeast Michigan and, over time, they stopped being Reagan Democrats and just became Republicans.

Exit polls from The Washington Post show President Obama lost white voters by 20 points in 2012 to Mitt Romney, the largest losing margin among whites in 30 years. Now, of course, every election is different. We know not as many voters will cast a ballot in 2014 as 2012 because it’s a midyear election when the presidential race isn’t on top of the ballot which creates, in turn, less voter excitement.

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Law
8:58 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Effort underway to regulate e-cigarettes

Lauri Rantala Wikimedia Commons

There’s a movement in Lansing to regulate the sale of electronic cigarettes. The smokeless devices deliver a nicotine-laced mist that users inhale. The effort has been slowed by a disagreement. It’s about whether e-cigarettes should be regulated and taxed like tobacco, or separately.

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