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

Sarah Horrigan / Flickr

The state House has adopted legislation that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to continue to turn away LGBT couples – even if the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage.

The bills would continue the current practice that could be threatened by a Supreme Court ruling. Republicans say the agencies shouldn’t be forced to choose between their religious values and performing their mission.

nofrills / Flickr

The state House is poised to vote tomorrow  that would allow faith-based adoption agencies in Michigan to turn away couples based on a religious objection to their lifestyle

  House Republicans rejected a number of amendments in preliminary debate on the legislation. They would have required agencies to put the best interests of children over religious concerns, and to state in advance who they would refuse to serve.  

Utility executive Nick Khouri will be Michigan’s next state treasurer. But Khouri also comes to the job with a lengthy state government resume – including time as a deputy treasurer.

Khouri was named to the job by Governor Rick Snyder and will start the job next month, a just a few days after the April 15 tax filing deadline. As well as collecting taxes, the state treasurer plays a key role in declaring local governments and school districts in financial distress, and naming emergency managers. 

Update, March 17th, 2015 1:15 PM:

In response to Governor Snyder's Executive Order moving the state School Reform Office (see original story below) out from control of the state Department of Education and into the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget, the State Board of Education released the following statement, calling into question the constitutionality of the Governor's order:

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
Photo courtesy of Governor Snyder's office

Governor Rick Snyder has rolled out a new state department with the job of matching skilled workers with employers.

Meet TED. That’s the new state Department of Talent and Economic Development. Governor Snyder created the department by executive order to look at better ways to train and place workers with businesses that are hiring.

“It’s a new way of looking at government,” said Snyder. “Let’s take care of people. Let’s deal with root causes, and let’s give ‘em great opportunity.”

Thetoad / Flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder has taken direct control over the state office tasked with monitoring Michigan’s worst performing schools.

The elected state Board of Education previously had control over the state School Reform Office. Snyder signed an executive order on Thursday that moves the reform office to his budget office.

Snyder endorsed the report from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget indicating a notable decrease in unemployment in Michigan over the past month.
gophouse.com

Governor Snyder is joining the debate as the Legislature embarks on the first major re-write of Michigan’s energy policy in many years. He will deliver a speech on the topic in metro Detroit.

“Hopefully, we can establish a strong energy policy for Michigan that can last the next decade or so,” he says. The governor says he has some things he’d like lawmakers to keep in mind.

Gov. Rick Snyder
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder says he thinks it would be a mistake to abruptly scrap Michigan’s incentives to attract film and video productions.

The state House is poised to vote this week on a bill to end the film incentives when the new budget year begins Oct. 1.  The governor’s not a fan of industry-specific tax breaks, but he says it would be unfair to simply eliminate the film credits.

Governor Rick Snyder will announce his new energy strategy for the state very soon and, anticipating that, Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature have rolled out their own plans to ensure affordable, reliable electricity.

Now, if you don’t think politics plays a role in energy policy, then you explain why utilities and energy companies have political action committees to make campaign donations. And the answer is energy plans are rife with politics because, first, it’s a very regulated industry, and, second, there’s a lot of money in those volts.

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Legislation that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to work with LGBT couples or anyone else based on moral or religious grounds is headed to the floor of the state House.

A state House committee approved the bills as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on same-sex marriage. 

Adoptions by LGBT parents are at the center of this controversy.
user stevendamrun / Flickr

A state House committee approved the legislation this morning.

The bills would allow agencies that take money from the state for placing children with families to turn away same-sex couples. There would have to be a sincere religious objection and a good-faith effort to refer the couples to another adoption service.

user metassus / Flickr

Michigan has joined the appeal of a federal judge’s decision to restore endangered species protections to the gray wolf.

Animal rights and wildlife groups challenged the de-listing in an effort to stop wolf hunting in Michigan and other Midwestern states. Michigan voters rejected wolf hunting last year – although that referendum was circumvented by the Legislature. However, wildlife groups succeeded in court where they failed politically when a federal judge last month restored the protections.

This week, Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker is likely to become the third Midwest governor in as many years to sign legislation making his state right to work, the 25th in the country.

It was not that long ago that the right to work movement was essentially stalled. In 2011, no state had gone right to work in a decade.

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Attorneys for April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse say their challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court to Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban focus on the harmful effects on children.

This is the first round of briefs to be filed since the Supreme Court agreed to hear challenges to same-sex marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Chris / Flickr

The state House has adopted legislation that would exempt air-, spring-, and gas-powered guns from Michigan firearms laws.

The legislation is backed by the NRA. Supporters says Michigan’s rules are stricter and out of step with most other states and the federal government.

Andrew McFarlane / creative commons

There’s a new fight underway at the state Capitol over Michigan’s tax credit for film, TV, and digital video projects. And some advocates for the subsidy say the debate itself is harming efforts to create a thriving Michigan movie and video entertainment business.  

Gov. Rick Snyder has never been a fan of the subsidies and his administration capped them $50 million in the current budget and in his proposed budget for the coming fiscal year. 

Gov. Rick Snyder
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

A state board has approved selling bonds to come up with $50 million to help community colleges ramp up their career and technical training.

Eighteen community colleges qualified for the money to buy equipment and technology. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A survey of Michigan employers suggests more hiring is in store this year.

The Business Leaders for Michigan survey quizzes some of the state’s largest employers, representing about a third of the state’s economy. It finds more than half are optimistic about prospects for the next six to 18 months, says BLM’s Kelly Chesney.

Michigan Republicans held their winter convention this weekend in Lansing and elected Ronna Romney McDaniel as their new chair.

McDaniel has quite the Republican pedigree.  She is the niece of Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, granddaughter of Michigan Governor George Romney. 

migop.org

Romney McDaniel is the new Michigan Republican chairwoman. The niece of Mitt Romney was elected today at a GOP convention in Lansing.

McDaniel says one of her goals is to unite her party’s factions.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A new report says the Michigan Department of Transportation has done a poor job of ensuring that road builders repair problems with their work.

Michigan started a warranty program to ensure road builders come back and repair problems. The report says the state hasn’t followed up to ensure the work gets done. 

An "I Voted" sticker.
user Vox Efx / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has signed legislation that moves Michigan's 2016 Republican presidential primary to March 8.

The bills were signed as Republicans prepare to gather in Lansing this weekend for their winter state party convention.

Jake Neher / MPRN

There are more than $9 billion in un-cashed Michigan business tax credits outstanding and waiting to play havoc with future state budgets. That’s $3 billion  larger than originally expected, and it was already a big problem.

State Representative Al Psholka, R-Stevensville, chairs the House Appropriations Committee. He says that leaves a lot of uncertainty hanging over future state budgets.

Michigan Legislature
Michigan Municipal League

The state House is supposed to vote before the end of the week on legislation to hold Michigan’s Republican presidential primary in March of next year. That’s after the House Elections Committee adopted the bills that many Republicans hope and expect will make Michigan a player in next year’s GOP presidential sweepstakes.

Democratic state Representative Gretchen Driskell’s nascent campaign for Congress relies in part on the assumption that Hillary Clinton will be at the top of the Democratic ticket next year.

quicksandala / morgueFile

The state Auditor General says the Michigan Department of Transportation spent millions of dollars on commuter rail cars that aren’t being used.

The audit found the department missed out on applying for federal mass transit funds that could have defrayed the state’s costs, and failed to ensure all railway crossings are safe.

The report also found the state spent almost $10 million refurbishing rail cars that were never put to use.

“The projects got delayed, and then the issue became, OK, you put the money into the overhaul,” said Tim Hoeffner of MDOT. “You need to keep them available. And the question is, how long should we keep them available.” 

How much does your vote count? Thanks to gerrymandering, it depends on where you live.
Theresa Thompson / Flickr

Michigan Republicans would vote for their presidential nominee on March 15 of next year, under a bill that’s cleared the state Senate. But there’s still a lot to settle as far as the GOP nominating process.

Update 2/12/2015:

 The Michigan Senate adopted legislation early today to establish a March 15th, 2016, Republican presidential primary.* It could position the state to join a Midwest super-primary sometimes dubbed the “Big Ten” primary.

user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a budget-cutting executive order, and presented a spending plan for the coming fiscal year. Schools, universities, and local governments were spared cuts as part the order to help clear away a deficit.

michigan.gov

Governor Rick Snyder will present his budget proposal tomorrow, including plans to tackle a deficit. But he will also propose some new spending on public safety.

A lot of the initiatives will focus on preventing and prosecuting sexual assaults. The governor will propose an initiative that targets university campuses, and an additional $3.4 million to make sure rape kits are processed in a timely fashion.

“I think everyone would agree that sexual assault has to be dealt with, and there’s going to be a priority placed on those kinds of crimes,” said Colonel Kristie Etue is the Michigan State Police director.

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