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

ma.co. / Flickr

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.
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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.

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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.

U.S. Supreme Court
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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

Governor Rick Snyder was released from the hospital this morning.

He sent this tweet:

He spent four days being treated for a blood clot in his leg. It was one of the effects of keeping his leg immobile while he heals from a torn Achilles tendon. The governor has been advised to curtail unnecessary travel and keep the weight off his injured leg. The governor does plan be at the state Capitol Wednesday to present his budget proposal to lawmakers.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Update: Friday, 10:38 a.m.:

The Detroit Free Press has an update on the Governor's condition:

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder had a "good restful night" in an Ann Arbor area hospital after he was hospitalized Thursday with a blood clot in his right leg, where he has been wearing a protective boot due to a torn Achilles tendon, a spokeswoman said Friday morning.

Marsha Caspar and Glenna DeJong with Frizzy. They were the first same-sex couple married in Michigan on March 22, after a federal judge struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The ban was restored by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Rick Pluta / MPRN

More than 300 gay and lesbian couples in Michigan are legally married now that Governor Rick Snyder has decided not to contest a court order. It says the state has to recognize the marriages that took place last spring.

But, the state will continue to defend the same-sex marriage ban in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Update 2/4/2015:

And, it's now been made official: Governor Snyder says the state will recognize the more than 300 gay and lesbian marriages that were performed in Michigan last March. Snyder says his administration will not challenger a judge's order issued last month to recognize the marriages performed during the window when they were legal.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a judgment against Andrew Shirvell for stalking and harassing a gay University of Michigan student.

The appeals court knocked $500,000 off the judgment. It said one the claims was a duplicate of other allegations against Shirvell, but Shirvell still owes $3.5 million.

Shirvell ran a harassment campaign against the U of M's first openly gay student body president while he was employed as an assistant state attorney general. He was eventually fired from his job.

The sixth circuit also upheld professional sanctions against Shirvell.

John-Morgan / creative commons

An economic study says the May ballot proposal to raise the state sales tax could also collectively cost Michigan taxpayers $100 million more in federal income taxes.

The ballot proposal would raise the state sales tax by a penny on the dollar.

Update Monday, January 26th:

The ax has fallen.

This afternoon, Michigan House Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) and the Republican caucus developed a response that was both ruthless and nuanced to the Democratic insurgency on the House Appropriations Committee.

Gov. Rick Snyder.
gophouse.com

Governor Rick Snyder says improving services for the mentally ill is a major civil rights issue. And he says it’s a high priority in his second term.

“Mental health is its own issue in its own right, a major issue. We’ve seen some huge progress because of Healthy Michigan. But I think we still have a lot of work to be done in general mental health and where it intersects with criminal justice,” he told the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.

What happens in politics when you want to get rid of someone and they just won’t quit? We are, of course, talking about Michigan Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema.

Agema consistently courts controversy and has done his party no favors with social media posts that go after Muslims, gays and African-Americans.

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