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.

Pages

Politics & Government
4:34 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Snyder creates Office for New Americans

Governor Rick Snyder

Governor Rick Snyder has signed an executive order creating a Michigan Office for New Americans. The governor has made attracting immigrants a priority as part of his economic plans. The governor named Grand Rapids entrepreneur Bing Goei to lead the office.

“It’s not going to be a large department,” said Goei, “but it’s really to be that clearinghouse, that focal point, because, again, we have activities probably in every department of state government involved with immigrants. This is to have a clearinghouse, a center for that.” 

The governor says he will do what he can to make Michigan more immigrant friendly, while he hopes Washington can come up with a better national immigration policy.

“I think there’s a lot of evidence to say, particularly for skilled immigrants, they’re net job generators,” said Snyder. “They add jobs, they create economic wealth and well-being throughout the supply chain.” 

It's Just Politics
1:36 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Who will run Michigan if there's a zombie apocalypse? We have answers

Zombies invade San Francisco. Could it happen in Michigan?
Scott Beale Flickr

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

The "Designated Survivor" is the person from the President’s Cabinet who sits out the big, official political gatherings – like the State of the Union speech, or a Presidential Inauguration.

That survivor would be there if something unthinkable happens. The government would still go on. Someone would be in charge.

So that got us thinking about Michigan: What does Michigan do if a catastrophe wipes out the top echelons of state government?

Does Michigan have a plan?

Well, yes! It’s the “Emergency Interim Executive Succession Act.” Public Act 202 of 1959 reads:

“If the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, the elected Secretary of State, the elected Attorney General, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House of representatives are not able or are unavailable to exercise the powers and discharge the duties of the governor because of a disaster, the available emergency interim successor highest in order of succession shall exercise the powers and discharge the duties of the office of governor.”

In the case of the unthinkable – whether it’s zombies, or an attack on the state - if the entire line of succession is wiped out or incapacitated, there is still a plan for someone to be in charge.

Read more
Politics & Government
8:38 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Gov. Snyder will formally launch his reelection campaign next week

Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) (file photo) will formally kickoff his campaign with a Super Bowl ad and two days of campaigning across the state next week.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder will formally launch his reelection bid Sunday with a Super Bowl TV ad, followed by a six-stop announcement tour on Monday and Tuesday of next week.

The announcement is no surprise.

The Republican governor has made clear for quite some time his intentions to seek a second four-year term.

The governor could make some mention of his plans Friday afternoon when he addresses the Michigan Press Association.

His likely Democratic opponent on the November ballot is former congressman Mark Schauer.

Law
4:43 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Michigan Supreme Court takes right-to-work case

Michigan Supreme Court
photo courtesy of the MI Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the right-to-work law applies to 34,000 state civil service workers.

The court ordered the state and public employee unions to file briefs in anticipation of oral arguments later this year. The unions are appealing a lower court decision from last summer. It said the right-to-work law does apply to state civil service workers. The law says workers do not have to pay union dues or fees to hold a job, although the union is still obligated to represent them.

State employee unions say the law is trumped by the Michigan Constitution – specifically, the provision that says the Michigan Civil Service Commission sets the work rules for state employees. The court will also hear a union challenge to the state law that requires civil service workers to contribute more of their paychecks toward their pensions, or have their retirement benefits reduced.

Law
8:48 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Bill would require candidates to declare felonies

The state House could vote soon on a measure to require political candidates to reveal felony convictions that occurred within the prior 10 years.   

The bill would require candidates to indicate the convictions when they file to run for office. Convictions that are expunged or sealed by a court order would be exempt.

State Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Twp., sponsored the bill. 

“We’re trying to make sure the electorate knows who we are, and we’re being transparent,” said Kesto, a former prosecutor. “Because when it comes to criminal activity, it comes to the integrity of certain individuals who are the candidates, and we should be held to a higher standard.”

Kesto says the measure is not aimed at anyone in particular. However, there is a House Democrat, state Rep. Brian Banks, D-Detroit, whose eight felonies for fraud remained a secret until late in his primary campaign.

It's Just Politics
2:11 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Gov. Snyder has to sell Detroit bailout* to a skeptical Legislature – and quickly

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

* "This is not a bailout"

Gov. Rick Snyder used the phrase “this is not a bailout” five times in the 26 minutes he used to announce the first details of a “grand bargain” to settle the Detroit bankruptcy and the fight over pension benefits.

The governor’s plan would commit as much as $350 million over 20 years to help dig Detroit out of bankruptcy and keep the assets of the Detroit Institute of Arts off the auction block.

The money would most likely come from what Michigan is getting from the national tobacco settlement, that 15-year-old cash cow that’s been tapped for college scholarships, economic development, Medicaid – the list goes on. And now it might be part of the Detroit bailout (but don’t call it a “bailout").

So, there’s this plan and a revenue stream to go along with it. Now, the governor just has to sell it to the Legislature.The Michigan Constitution requires every dollar that goes to the state to go through the Legislature’s appropriations process.

And we wouldn’t exactly call this a done deal or an easy sell. After all, this is an election year. And Republicans, especially those west of Lansing and north of Clare, have little reason to go along with a political hot potato like aid for Detroit. At least two Senate Republicans, probably more, are looking at primaries. Plenty of House Republicans are also looking over their shoulders for a Tea Party primary challenge. Politically speaking, there are probably more reasons not to do this than to do this.

Read more
Politics & Government
5:35 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Snyder breathes new life into balanced budget amendment efforts

Credit Tiberius Images / Flickr

It took a push from Gov. Rick Snyder, but efforts to put Michigan on record as supporting a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution are moving again at the state Capitol.

Gov. Snyder supported the idea last week in his State of the State address. Today, a state House committee held its first hearing on two resolutions calling on Congress to convene a convention of the states to draft a balanced budget amendment. 

Read more
Economy
9:33 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Michigan's 2013 jobless rate: 8.4%

Michigan's December unemployment rate was 11.7 percent
Khalilshah Flickr

Michigan’s unemployment rate last year averaged 8.4%. That’s down from 8.9% in 2012. 

The state's annual jobless rate has gone down now for three years in a row. But while hiring is up, much of the decline in the rate is also due to people who’ve quit looking for jobs and are no longer measured as part of the workforce. 

Officially, there are 394,000 unemployed people in Michigan. The average length of unemployment is 39 weeks. The combined rate of unemployment, people who’ve stopped looking for jobs, and under-employment is 15.3%. That is also a drop from the previous year, when the unemployment and underemployment rate was 16.6%. 

Politics & Government
9:21 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Mental health commission report says resources, better coordination needed

Credit Michigan House Republicans

A state commission that’s looking at an overhaul of mental health services has released a sweeping set of proposals.

The last big overhaul of the mental health system wrapped up in the early 1990s, when most of the state’s psychiatric hospitals were closed.  

This commission convened by Gov. Rick Snyder found there are still barriers to helping people with mental health issues live productively. 

Read more
It's Just Politics
1:37 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

GOP can’t control Agema while Dems confront the ‘Obama Quandary’

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

Before we dive into this week's It's Just Politics, we gotta give a shout out to the Washington Post who named co-host Rick Pluta one of Michigan's best state capitol reporters in America. Cheers, Rick!

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

“We are reinventing Michigan,” said Gov. Rick Snyder in last night's State of the State address; an address that could (in a much-abbreviated form) double as a reelection campaign speech. It was filled with a lot of good news of revenue surpluses, money for early childhood and schools, etc.

A little something for everyone.

For conservatives -- who have not fully embraced this governor -- Snyder joined the call for a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution. For moderates and independents, Snyder used the speech to try quell some of the controversy that’s being created within and about the Michigan Republican Party.

Here’s what he said: “Publicly tonight, I’d like to make a call to all citizens of Michigan, to ask us to have a greater degree of civility and respect towards others of different backgrounds and different views. The future of Michigan is dependent on having people understand that differences are a positive power, that we can find common ground and let’s work to bring Michiganders together, not divide us.”

Read more
Politics & Government
10:39 am
Fri January 17, 2014

Immigration, school year changes and other highlights from Gov. Snyder's State of the State address

Gov. Rick Snyder delivering his 2014 State of the State address.
MIGOP Instagram

Gov. Rick Snyder put services for immigrants and seniors at the top of his to-do list for 2014 in his State of the State speech yesterday.

The governor also promised to extend pre-school to every child in the state that wants to attend, and trumpeted the state’s economic recovery as he prepares to seek a second term.

"We are reinventing Michigan," Snyder said. "Michigan is the comeback state."

Snyder noted that hiring is up, and more people are looking for work — although Michigan still has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates and many families living in poverty.

But the governor says things are getting better and the state’s improved budget position and the prospect of a revenue surplus is evidence of that. He said much of that money — more than a billion dollars over the next three years — should be used on infrastructure, investments, and savings. But he also said taxpayers should get some of it back.

“There’s going to be some opportunity for tax relief,” Snyder said.

Read more
Law
5:57 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Appeals court sides with Snyder over teachers’ unions

Joe Gratz Flickr

The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld a law that requires teachers and public school employees to pay more for their retirement health and pension benefits.

The law was challenged by teachers’ unions, which say it illegally changes public school employees’ contracts without their consent. The 2012 law requires teachers to pay more for their benefits, accept lower retirement health and pension benefits, or move into a defined contribution 401 (k) plan. The law has been a big tension point between teachers’ unions and the Snyder administration.      

Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration says it was a necessary measure to get a handle on long-term retirement costs. The administration says it reduces unfunded liabilities by $15 billion, and makes the system more stable. 

It's Just Politics
1:29 pm
Sat January 11, 2014

Snyder and the appearance of political 'cronyism'

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

Control – the ability to command and direct events – is the elusive ambition of politicians. Politicians seek office promising to get things done or, in some rare cases, to stop something from getting done. But, mostly, they want to control their fates. We all want that, of course, but, it is not that simple.

Public life is complicated and messy.

Take, for example, Gov. Snyder. In just less than a week, Snyder will deliver his fourth State of the State address. He’ll wax on about the accomplishments of the last three years as he also proposes an agenda for this year and lays the groundwork for his reelection bid.

And, yes, we say his reelection bid. Though the governor has not yet announced he will seek reelection, as we’ve talked about before on It’s Just Politics, Snyder is certainly already acting like a candidate. The governor’s reelection campaign has already bought airtime, just like they did four years ago, on Super Bowl Sunday. (One more reason we know Snyder will run again: He’s said the Detroit Lions will be in the Super Bowl before he leaves office… yet another thing he can’t control.)

Going into the 2014 election, Gov. Snyder and other Republicans would like to be focused on good news like revenue surpluses and balanced budgets. But something always seems to get in the way. And, this week, that was the continuing drama surrounding former state Treasurer Andy Dillon’s personal and professional life.

Read more
Politics & Government
6:46 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Snyder cool to tax cut talk

Governor Rick Snyder

Gov. Rick Snyder is decidedly cool about the tax cut fever sweeping the state Capitol. That fever stems from a projected budget surplus for the current fiscal year that could be more than a half a billion dollars in this fiscal year.        

“Let’s get the facts first and then let’s make sure we’re being fiscally responsible for the long term,” he told reporters this week. “Because it’s not just about looking at rollbacks. It’s looking at the best long-term solution for our citizens.” 

Read more
Politics & Government
9:04 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Snyder: Thaw and freeze a concern

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Many schools will remain closed for a third day tomorrow due to cold temperatures and sidewalks that need to be cleared. At least half a dozen deaths have been linked to the  cold temperatures. And officials continue to advise drivers to take it slow and beware of ice.

Gov. Rick Snyder says there’s still plenty of work to do to clean up from the storm.

Read more
Environment & Science
9:25 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Keeping carp out of Great Lakes could take years and cost billions

A bighead carp at the Shedd Aquarium (perhaps a face only its mother could love).
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

A new report says a permanent solution to the Asian carp threat to the Great Lakes could take years to build and cost billions of dollars.

The report says it’s very possible for the invasive species to slip from the Mississippi River system into the Great Lakes. And that it’s possible for the species to live in the lakes and grow in population.

The report was prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Congress.

Read more
Politics & Government
5:10 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Governor: Stay home, or drive slowly

Governor Rick Snyder

Gov. Rick Snyder is asking people to stay home if possible for the duration of the cold snap that’s plunged to near-record cold temperatures.

“Stay inside as much as you can. Stay warm,” he said, adding that people who do venture onto the roads should go very slowly.

“In particular, when you’re going out there on the road, if you’re on one of our highways or freeways, really slow down on the ramps,” Snyder said. “That’s where we’re seeing a large number of the incidents really happen is people are really getting on the ramps and going at excessive speeds. Even though they may think they’re going slowly, go even slower, please.”

The state Department of Transportation says at least 2,500 snow plows have been deployed to clear highways and local roads. Almost every school in the state is expected to be closed for a second day so children are not subjected to below-zero wind chill.

Shiawassee and Cass counties have declared states of emergency because of the cold.

It's Just Politics
1:35 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

Michigan’s budget surplus: More money, more problems? Sure, but it beats the alternative

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

Lansing these days could be renamed Surplus City, where we’re just looking for ways to spend the money that Michigan is expected to rake in this year. It appears our deficit days are behind us; we are now looking at a tidy little budget surplus. Early estimates put the number in the hundreds of millions of dollars range but we’ll get an official projection a week from today when the state holds the next revenue estimating conference.

People come to the Capitol and watch as economists talk about, ya know, economic things and come up with an official budget number. And one thing is certain: No matter how big the surplus is, there will be more ideas on how to spend it than actual money to spend. And, there’s already a list including road funding and more money for schools and universities.

Democrats also say they want to restore the Earned Income Tax Credit and Homestead Property Tax Credit. And, there will likely be talk about more money for local governments. These are things that Democrats, as the minority party in the Capitol, would typically have little influence over. But they have a little more to work with right now. That’s because, for one thing, it’s an election year, if -- as expected -- Republicans put more money into schools and universities -- it becomes harder for Democrats to use those as campaign issues. There’s also controversial questions like road funding and auto insurance, issues that aren’t likely to get resolved without some measure of Democratic cooperation.

So, we are faced here, with a fiscal philosophical question: What is a budget surplus?

Read more
Politics & Government
5:10 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

Schuette denies contradiction in birth-control coverage statements

Attorney General Bill Schuette (R-MI)
Michigan Attorney General office

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says he supports efforts to block federal health insurance mandates that require contraception coverage in employer-funded health plans.

But he says he also supports a woman’s right to access birth control.

“There’s a difference between abortion and birth control, and anybody who’d want to limit the choices and options for a woman on birth control is absolutely bonkers, nuts, and crazy,” Schuette says.

Read more
Health
7:37 am
Tue December 31, 2013

Washington approves Michigan medicaid plan

Credit 401(k) 2013 / Flickr

Michigan’s plan to expand Medicaid health coverage to more than 300,000 low-income residents has been approved by the federal government. The state’s plan will require co-pays and health care savings accounts.

Read more

Pages