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

These 14 states were in the bottom of the rankings. Michigan was ranked the worst.
Center for Public Integrity

Fiftieth out of fifty states.

That's where Michigan ranks in a report released today by the Center for Public Integrity.

The last time we wrote about this, Michigan ranked 43rd out of 50. 

 There’s been lots of debate over the past few days about the political wisdom of going ahead in Michigan with a couple of ballot campaigns after similar efforts suffered big defeats last week in Houston and Ohio.

OH to MI? Apples to oranges

Rick Pluta / MPRN

The legal journey for April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse wrapped up in an Oakland County courtroom, where they finalized adoptions for their children. DeBoer and Rowse are the couple who successfully challenged Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban.

Applause, tears, laughter, and cake were all part of the celebration presided over by Oakland County Circuit Judge Karen McDonald.

Former Michigan Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat.
From Courser/Gamrat websites

Former state Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat both lost bids to regain their seats after being forced out of the state House.

The two ex-lawmakers were very well known, but for the wrong reasons. Their efforts to cover up an extra-marital affair with wild rumors became the topic of national headlines and late-night jokes.

Gamrat lost to Mary Whiteford in her Republican primary. Courser lost his Republican primary to Gary Howell. Both seats are considered safely in the GOP column. The general election will be in March.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Several hundred demonstrators chanted “enough is enough” at a state Capitol rally opposing Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed reorganization of the Detroit Public Schools.

  

The rally was organized by the teachers union, which brought in members by the busload to protest and to lobby state lawmakers.

It’s the upstarts versus the Establishment. Again.

And, this time, we don’t mean the Tea Party versus the Republicans. Rather, we’re talking about the gay rights movement in Michigan.

morgueFile

Two state lawmakers have forged a bipartisan effort to take Michigan off Daylight Saving Time. If they get their way, Sunday would be the final time Michiganders have to re-set their clocks to accommodate the time change.

american flag and lgbt flag
Flickr user Praveen / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A bipartisan group is forming a ballot committee to put gay and transgender rights into the Michigan Constitution.

“Fair Michigan” wants to add protections based on gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. The campaign filed as a ballot committee Friday with the Michigan Bureau of Elections.

Derek Key / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The state Supreme Court has returned 85 criminal cases to lower courts for re-sentencing hearings. That’s because of a recent decision that changed the rules for sentencing defendants.

In August, the state Supreme Court struck down Michigan’s mandatory sentencing guidelines. It said the rules required judges to factor in crimes and evidence that were never proven in court, and that’s unconstitutional.

Michigan state Capitol
User: mattileo / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The emergency manager of the Detroit school district took a trip to Lansing today to ask state lawmakers for help. Darnell Earley was hoping to win support for Governor Rick Snyder’s plan to bail out the district.

  

Earley told the state House budget subcommittee on K-12 school spending that the district’s massive debt is standing in the way of improving academic performance and fixing the business side of the operation.

Heroin abuse in Michigan is on the rise.
United Nations Photo

A state task force says it should be more important to get medical care for people who overdose on illegal drugs than it is to prosecute them.

“This is a biology issue, not a willpower issue, so the more we can move the discussion into the world of healthcare, I think the better we’ll do in identifying, heading off, and the treating addiction,” says Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, who led the panel. Its job was to recommend ways to combat the spiraling rates of prescription painkiller and heroin addiction and a surge in overdose deaths.

Another road funding plan is moving in Lansing but, after four years of debate, one has to wonder: has a real solution become an impossible dream?

In the state Legislature, the Senate now has the House plan. The House has the Senate plan. But, even though it’s Republicans calling the shots in Lansing, Republicans can’t agree on what to do about fixing the roads.

WFIU Public Radio / Creative Commons

The state House met into the night to adopt a road-funding plan, but it seems that a final deal on paying for road repairs remains elusive.

The $1 billion package relies on new fuel taxes and vehicle fees. But half the money would also come from cutting other parts of the budget.

Governor Rick Snyder is facing a tough sell today as he tries to re-start the conversation on fixing Detroit’s schools. And, that’s just one of the political tough sells the Second Term Nerd is facing.

MSU football players.
User: Michigan State Spartans / facebook

The state Supreme Court says Michigan State University does not have to release the names of 301 student-athletes listed as suspects in police reports while a freedom of information case is on appeal.

The ESPN network wants the names as part of an investigation into whether colleges treat student-athletes suspected of crimes differently than other students.

MSU was facing a court-ordered deadline of today to release the names.

flickr user Joe Gratz / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments for and against local laws that require contractors on public projects to pay union-scale wages. 

The challenge to Lansing’s ordinance was filed by non-union contractors. They say local governments aren’t allowed to adopt local wage laws. 

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Update 12:00 p.m. October 15, 2015:

The state Senate approved the legislation this morning. The bill now goes to Gov. Snyder's desk.

Original post October 14, 10:23 p.m.:

The Legislature is close to approving the state’s share of money to help Flint with its water crisis. Children in the city are showing elevated lead levels after a state-appointed emergency manager switched water supplies. 

The state House approved the expenditure today and the state Senate’s expected to do the same tomorrow.

flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A state Senate committee has adopted on party-line votes legislation that would essentially eliminate “gun-free” zones in Michigan.

The bill would also close a loophole that allows people with concealed pistol permits to open carry in schools. But schools could no longer ban licensed concealed weapons.

Republicans may be trying to break up with Dave Agema, but Dave Agema is sending plenty of signals that he’s not about to break up with Republicans.

Jeremy Lim / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Legislature has sent bills to Governor Rick Snyder that make some big changes to Michigan’s civil forfeiture law, which allows police to seize and keep assets of people who are suspected of criminal activity even if they’re never charged or convicted.

The bills would make it easier for people to recover assets such as homes, cars, or bank accounts.

CedarBendDrive / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Michigan State University has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to put a hold on an order to release the names of student-athletes who were suspects in criminal cases.

MSU is supposed to comply with the lower court order by the end of the month. But the university asked for a delay while the case is appealed to the state Supreme Court.

tedcruz.org

Republican candidate Ted Cruz brought his presidential campaign to Michigan and Kalamazoo today.

Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, was greeted enthusiastically.

             

“We need to bring the power out of Washington and back to ‘we the people!” That is what this campaign is about!” Cruz told the cheering crowd of several hundred people.

With the hand-wringing over what appears to be short-term, hasty-decision-making in Flint (the move by a state-appointed emergency manager to try and save money by breaking away from Detroit’s water system and to, instead, pull water from the the highly corrosive Flint River), the city’s water crisis has now become a political crisis as well.

Lawmaker wants to ban Great Lakes fish farms

Oct 1, 2015
micropterus_dolomieu / Wikimedia commons

A state lawmaker wants to make sure commercial fish farms will never be allowed to operate in portions of the Great Lakes controlled by Michigan.

State Senator Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, says commercial fish farming could create a huge problem with waste.

“This waste could create algae blooms, all sorts of problems on the shore, as well as out on the lake,” he says.

On April 25, 2014, Flint officials toasted each other as they flipped the switch to the Flint River.
WNEM-TV

Governor Rick Snyder acknowledges the decision to switch the city of Flint’s water system was not vetted the way it should have been. The city faces a crisis now that the water going to homes is contaminated by lead.

“In terms of a mistake, I would say is there are probably things that were not as fully understood as when that switch was made,” he said.

People moving from Syria into Turkey.
European Commission DG ECHO

Gov. Rick Snyder says he’d like Michigan to welcome more refugees fleeing war and violence in the Middle East.

The governor told the new Michigan Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs he’s already been in touch with the federal government.

The Michigan presidential primary is underway. And by that we really mean that the ‘endorsements primary’ is underway.

You’ve got a friend

With 162 days until Michigan voters decide who they want to be their Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, the focus right now is really on the Republican side of things. 

Phil Dowsing Creative / Flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court has refused to hear a case that alleges the state and the struggling Highland Park school district are failing in their legal obligation to adequately educate students.

The so-called “right-to-read” lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Former Michigan Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat.
From Courser/Gamrat websites

A Republican legislator is drafting a bill to ensure that state lawmakers who are expelled or quit remain out of office. But, it’s not clear if it’s possible to stop former Representatives Todd Courser or Cindy Gamrat from running for and winning their old jobs.

Ben Carson Twitter / https://twitter.com/realbencarson

Republican presidential hopeful Doctor Ben Carson made a campaign swing through Michigan today.

Carson made stops in Jackson and Spring Arbor University. He told an audience at the Christian college the U.S. is a “Judeo-Christian nation,” and immigrants should not be allowed to change the character of the country.

Carson told the crowd “secular-progressives” are trying to force change upon the country.

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