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

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Environment & Science
6:51 am
Tue June 3, 2014

DEQ chief wants flexibility to deal with EPA carbon standard

DTE Energy's St. Clair power plant
Credit user cgord / wikimedia commons

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration will argue for flexibility to meet proposed new federal standards for greenhouse gas emissions. The rule was made public today by the EPA. It calls for a 30% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, compared to emissions in 2005.

“We support that goal. We think it’s a legitimate goal. Our issue is – and there’s a lot of detail yet that we haven’t gone through – will the state be given the flexibility, and will it be an orderly transition?” said Dan Wyant, the director of the state Department of Environmental Quality.

He says the state is already on a path to meet the 10 percent renewable energy target required by a 2008 state law. But he says future goals should be broader than forcing a transition to alternative fuels.

“We know it can be disruptive – reliability and affordability can be impacted if we go too fast, too hard, too soon,” said Wyant. He said, for example, Michigan will ask the Obama administration to count utilities’ efficiency efforts against emissions targets.

The final version of the rule won’t be adopted until next year following a public comment period.  A legislative workgroup is starting to plot Michigan’s next energy strategy. Michigan is also part of the Midwestern Power Sector Collaborative, which is pondering a regional approach to complying with the new emissions standards.  

It's Just Politics
2:32 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

Despite waffling, Snyder did join call to add LGBT protections to state's civil rights law

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

This week at the annual Detroit Regional Chamber’s policy conference on Mackinac Island, Governor Snyder joined the chorus of people calling for an update to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights act to include protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people… sort of.

There is a lot of spoon-feeding to the press here on the Island – a litany of press conferences and media scrums. And, yesterday, one of those press conferences was held by a group of business leaders who want LGBT protections rolled into the civil rights law.

Meanwhile, at almost the exact same time as these business leaders were making their announcement, the Governor was talking to us, telling us he thought the legislature ought to take the issue up.

But, did he actually endorse it? “I’m encouraging them to say there’s been a lot of dialog and discussion on this. It’s been healthy in the public and I think it could be an appropriate topic for the legislators to take up. I would appreciate that,” the Governor said. And, that statement is fairly typical of the multiple exchanges we had with the governor on this topic.

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Politics & Government
10:27 am
Thu May 29, 2014

Gov. Snyder says he wants Legislature to add LGBT protections to civil rights law

Credit Guillaume Paumier/Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder says he’d like the Legislature to amend Michigan’s civil rights law to add protections for gays, lesbians and transgendered people.

“I don’t believe in discrimination and I think it would be great if they, the Legislature, looked at it later in the year,” said Snyder.

The governor says he’d lawmakers to first deal with the Detroit bankruptcy and road funding. But he thinks action on the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act could take place before the end of the year. The governor is attending the Detroit Regional Chamber Policy Conference on Mackinac Island, where a group of business leaders has endorsed adding LGBT rights to the civil rights law.

Politics & Government
12:47 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

The Michigan Senate will decide the fate of the Detroit rescue package

Inside the Michigan Senate.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The $195 million Detroit rescue package moves to the Michigan Senate this week after easily clearing the state House by wide margins.

Gov. Rick Snyder is hoping for speedy action to get the deal wrapped up no later than early June.

“I would remind people our work is not done,” Snyder said. “I’d like to thank the House for their wonderful work, but we still have work to get done in the Senate. Hopefully, we can get that done in a prompt fashion, but this is a great opportunity to move Michigan ahead.”

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Politics & Government
4:29 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

Judge: Conyers will be on Aug. primary ballot

Veteran Congressman John Conyers’ name will appear on the August primary ballot. That’s the ruling of U.S. District Judge Matthew Leitman, who struck down Michigan’s requirement that only registered voters can circulate candidate nominating petitions.

Earlier today, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson ruled that a problem with petition circulators threatened to bring an end to Conyers’ almost 50-year congressional career. Judge Leitman quickly followed with a ruling that requiring petition circulators to be registered voters violates free speech rights, and is not consistent with other court decisions. 

Also, Michigan does not have the same requirement for people who circulate petitions to put a question on the ballot.

Leitman issued an order that puts Conyers name into the Democratic primary, where he’ll face Detroit pastor Horace Sheffield.

If Conyers is reelected, the icon of the civil rights movement will be the dean of the House.

Politics & Government
2:56 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

State aid to Detroit gets overwhelming support from Republicans (yes, you read that correctly)

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

In Lansing yesterday with the state House approving that $195 million for Detroit, a lot of us were anticipating a close vote. A very close vote.

There was a lot of back and forth about how many votes the Republicans would have to put up and how many the Democrats would have to put up. But, in the end, it wasn’t even close.

Other than the dust-up over the Detroit Institute of Arts millage the package passed by big lopsided margins and overwhelming Republican support. Which, when you think about it, is a very interesting dynamic: overwhelming GOP support for the state coming to the aid of a city run by Democrats.

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Politics & Government
10:24 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Detroit aid package clears first major hurdle in Lansing

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The $195 million state contribution to the Detroit bankruptcy settlement cleared its first major hurdle today, as the state House approved the payment by a wide margin.

Applause erupted as the final bill in the Detroit package was approved by a lopsided majority. 

There were plenty of complaints about parts of the bills – such as years of post-bankruptcy state oversight, and the big withdrawal from the state’s “rainy day” savings.

The package also includes financial oversight requirements that could last for many years.

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Economy
9:17 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

House committee could vote on minimum wage bill soon

Credit user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

There could be a vote this week on a bill to increase Michigan’s minimum wage – even though almost no one is happy with what the legislation would do.

The measure would boost Michigan’s minimum wage to $9.20 an hour, but potentially short-circuit a petition drive to raise it even higher – to $10.10 and index it to inflation. The bill cleared the state Senate last week, and hearings just opened before the House Government Operations Committee.

Business groups are in a bind. They don’t like the petition drive, but see the Senate bill as barely an improvement.

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Politics & Government
9:11 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Detroit bills could be on fast track through state House

Credit Thetoad / Flickr

UPDATED AT 10:30 on 5/22/14 with a correction.

Legislation providing $195 million to the Detroit bankruptcy settlement is on its way to the floor of the state House. A state House committee approved its part of the so-called “grand bargain” today. It’s designed to help pull the city out of bankruptcy, guard against the sale of city owned masterpieces at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and minimize cuts to pensions.

But timing is becoming tight for the Legislature to approve the state’s part in the so-called “grand bargain.” 

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Politics & Government
8:46 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Committee vote expected in Detroit aid agreement

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan wants the city to be able to get out from under state oversight if it's managing its finances.
Credit Mike Duggan

There could be a first vote tomorrow in the Legislature on an almost $200 million deal to aid the city of Detroit. Mayor Mike Duggan was one of those who testified prior to the historic vote. Duggan says, overall, he supports the plan.

“I want you to be comfortable we’re not going to be coming back in two years, four years, six years – that we’re going to solve this once and when we do solve it once, you’re going to be proud of how progress is made,” Duggan told the House Committee on Detroit’s Restructuring and Michigan’s Future.

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Politics & Government
7:19 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Conyers asks Secretary of State to State to put him on ballot

U.S. Congressman John Conyers is challenging the decision to bump him from the August primary ballot on a couple of fronts.

Congressman John Conyers is asking Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to put his name on the August Democratic primary ballot. The veteran lawmaker is asking the state’s top elections official to reverse a decision by the Wayne County clerk.

In the filing, Conyers' legal team says two nominating petition circulators should not have been disqualified for not being registered voters.

Conyers says they were registered, but, in fact, that shouldn’t matter because the requirement itself is unconstitutional, a violation of the First Amendment.

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It's Just Politics
2:38 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Rumors of the demise of minimum wage petition drive are greatly exaggerated

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

So now that the Michigan Senate has approved a new, higher minimum wage, with bipartisan support (14 Rs, 10 Ds) no less, this is practically a done deal. Right?

Not so much. The headlines and stories that said it would “kill” the petition drive are speculative and premature.

This Senate bill is – at the bottom of it all – an effort to pull the rug out from under the ballot drive to raise the Michigan minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. It's a cause beloved by Democrats and progressives.

So why then did 10 out of 12 Senate Democrats go along with it? Particularly after some had already blasted the proposal as a gimmick and too paltry – especially for workers earning the lower tipped wage?

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Politics & Government
6:11 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Michigan’s economy improves, but at a slower pace

Credit Matthileo / Flickr

The long, harsh winter slowed the state’s economic recovery. And it took a bite out of tax revenues, leaving Gov. Rick Snyder and the Legislature with less money to work with as they put the finishing touches on a new state budget.

A budget conference today looked at all kinds of factors affecting the state’s economy, to come up with a new revenue forecast for lawmakers to use.

There are still a few variables that could affect the state’s short and long-term economic future. New home building is one. The auto industry is another.

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Politics & Government
4:49 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Orr visits Lansing looking for some help

Credit Michigan Radio

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr was in Lansing today.  He told a state House committee Detroit’s bankruptcy settlement and recovery plan cannot succeed without an infusion of money from taxpayers.

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It's Just Politics
1:50 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Latest GOP minimum wage salvo could spark restaurant war

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

Republican state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, may have just turned up the heat in the fight over increasing Michigan’s minimum wage. But the petition campaign – headed by Raise Michigan – is already planning its pushback.

Richardville proposed yesterday his own legislation to raise the state minimum wage from $7.40 to $8.15, and a boost for tipped workers, too. But, really, this is not so much about raising the minimum wage as derailing the petition drive underway to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour plus a really big raise for tipped workers.

The Richardville proposal is separate from an earlier bill sponsored by Senator Rick Jones, R-Eaton Rapids, that would also raise the minimum wage. That one also meant to blunt the petition drive.

Both were introduced because it appears the petition drive is on track to turn in the necessary number of signatures before the deadline at the end of the month. Under the Michigan Constitution, once those signatures are certified, the state Legislature would have 40 days to vote it into law. If it doesn’t – the question goes on the November ballot.

And the polling shows, it’s pretty popular. Popular enough, Democrats hope, to boost turnout among their voters who tend to stay home in mid-term elections.

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Politics & Government
9:30 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Road package moves to Senate with funding source unresolved

Credit Wikimedia Commons

The state House has approved a transportation funding package that would ensure about $450 million a year is spent on to road repairs and maintenance.

That’s still far short of the $1.2 billion Gov. Rick Snyder wants to fix and maintain roads.      

But supporters of the plan say it’s a good first step.

“Good roads equal good jobs, and a strengthened economy, so let’s work together to put Michigan back to work,” said state Rep. and House Transportation Committee Chairman Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City.

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Detroit bankruptcy
6:03 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Detroit plan would put city’s finances under board supervision

The "grand bargain" seeks to shield works from the DIA from liquidation, and protect worker pensions.
Credit Maia C/Flickr

The state of Michigan would tap into its “rainy day” savings to put almost $200 million toward the Detroit bankruptcy settlement under bailout legislation introduced today. The savings account would be repaid from tobacco settlement money.

The state payment is part of a so-called “Grand Bargain” to mitigate cuts to pensions, and ensure that works owned by the Detroit Institute of Arts aren’t sold off as part of the city’s bankruptcy.

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Politics & Government
3:56 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Second wolf hunt referendum approved for November ballot

As many as three wolf hunting measures - two against, one for - could be on the November ballot.
Credit endangeredspecieslawandpolicy.com

The November ballot could be crowded with hunting questions.

A state elections panel today certified petition signatures for a referendum on Michigan’s wolf-hunting law. That’s in addition to a referendum on an earlier version of the law.  

Meanwhile, a third petition drive is underway that would preserve the wolf hunt.          

All this could lead to some confusion on the November ballot, and the outcome of the election.

Chris Thomas is Michigan’s director of elections. He said, historically, the practice has been the one with the most votes wins.

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Politics & Government
9:22 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Mike Rogers: Growing isolationism bad for US

Michigan U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) says he’s very concerned that war-weary Americans are growing more withdrawn from world events.

Rogers gives up his congressional seat next year as well as his chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee to pursue a new career as a talk radio host. The lawmaker has served in Congress since 2001 and has intelligence chairman since 2011.

Rogers says he sees plenty of evidence that the U.S. may be entering a new isolationist period.

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Courts
9:19 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Energy company agrees to pay Michigan $5 million anti-trust fine

Credit (courtesy Michigan Attorney General's office)

An energy company has agreed to pay a $5 million fine and plead no contest to a misdemeanor anti-trust charge as part of a plea deal. Under the bargain, Encana Oil & Gas USA also promised to help the state pursue legal action against another oil company.

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