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

David Johnson / Flickr

The Sierra Club is suing the federal government to get an order for an environmental risk study of an oil pipeline that runs through some sensitive areas.

The Sierra Club is disputing a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to allow Enbridge Energy to continue pumping oil through the 1,100-mile line that connects Minnesota to Ontario through Michigan and Wisconsin. 

At this time next year, we will likely be poised to dive into the Michigan presidential primary season. You might find this slightly nauseating but the presidential campaigns are already ramping up, particularly on the Republican side.

DeBoer Rowse Adoption Legal Fund

The U.S. Supreme Court could decide tomorrow whether a challenge to same-sex marriage bans in Michigan and three other states will get a hearing.

This will be the court’s first case conference of the new year. 

migop.org

Some controversial Facebook posts have re-kindled the condemnation and defense of Michigan’s controversial Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema.

Agema recently re-posted an article to his Facebook page ostensibly written by a defense attorney that takes aim at African Americans. The post has since been removed, but not before an MLive columnist took a screenshot and wrote a piece about it. Agema also posted about Muslims following the terrorist attack in Paris. He says U.S. and Michigan leaders refuse to recognize that Muslims are “the enemy.”

In the classroom.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A bill in front of Gov. Rick Snyder would require the state to find out how much it costs to educate a student in Michigan.

The legislation would require the state to find a qualified vendor to conduct the study. It would have to be completed within a year. At that point the findings would be presented to the governor and the Legislature.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder says Republican lawmakers should not be too quick to adopt tax cuts this year.

“I think people should work under that assumption, that it could be very difficult. And, first, let’s make sure we’re being fiscally responsible.”

Nevertheless, some incoming GOP lawmakers say they’d like to cut the state income tax.

Rick Pluta / Michigan Public Radio Network

Governor Rick Snyder has begun his second term as Michigan’s 48th governor. He took the oath of office in a ceremony on the steps of the state Capitol in the freezing cold.

A few hundred people bundled up to brave the cold and witness the start of Governor Snyder’s second term. The term-limited governor cannot run again, but says it would be a mistake to think of him as a lame duck.  He said people who might think that don’t know him.

Rick Snyder / michigan.gov

Governor Rick Snyder will be sworn in tomorrow for his second and final term. The inauguration ceremony will take place at the state Capitol.

Governor Snyder says he wants to start his second term focusing on workforce development – with an emphasis on trade skills.

MGoBlog

Governor Rick Snyder has signed legislation that forbids athletes at public universities in Michigan from organizing a union. It was one of 17 bills signed today by the governor.

The university athlete bill is an effort to preempt what happened at Northwestern University in Illinois, where football players at the private college voted last spring to form a union. There was no known similar effort at a Michigan university.

Wikimedia

Gov. Rick Snyder has vetoed legislation that would have relaxed restrictions on guns that use air-power to shoot pellets, BBs, paintballs, and other projectiles.

The legislation was supported by the NRA and gun rights groups, but opposed by many local government officials who would have lost a lot of authority to regulate air guns within their borders.

The NRA says Michigan is one of only four states that classify air guns as firearms.

Gov. Snyder says he vetoed the bills because they were part of an incomplete package of legislation. He says they would have changed the definition of what a firearm is in some state laws, but leave them untouched in others.

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

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a measure to set up a three-county pilot project to try out suspicion-based drug testing of people who apply for welfare benefits.

Snyder says the testing would only occur in cases where there’s a reasonable suspicion of drug use. The governor says people who test positive the first time will be directed to a treatment program without losing benefits.

HerpShots / Flickr

A new rule makes it easier for drivers who hit and kill an animal to claim their road kill.

The new rule replaces the previous policy that said people who want to claim road kill have to wait for an officer to show up and issue a special permit. Now, they can phone the police, report the accident, and take possession of the carcass.

Lawrence OP / Flickr

The state Supreme Court will decide whether a woman can have her ex-husband’s parental rights revoked because he’s not the biological father of her daughter.

Paternity was never an issue in the divorce of John and Jennie Glaubius, and the divorce order treats the ex-husband as the father of a little girl born while the couple was married. But a paternity test done after the divorce determined the biological father was almost certainly a man the mother was having an affair with during the marriage.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

  The Michigan Supreme Court says schools cannot sue the state for underfunding K-through-12 education without showing how much money they’re being short-changed.

450 school districts across Michigan filed the lawsuit. They say the Legislature imposed expensive new data collection and reporting requirements on districts without fully paying for them. That would violate the Headlee Amendment to the state constitution which outlaws unfunded mandates.

Governor Rick Snyder ended the lame duck session closer to his goal of more money for roads. But, we’re not ready to put this one in the ‘win’ column for the governor. Not yet, at least.

 That’s because the state won’t see a dime of this money unless voters approve the package in May.

Governor Rick Snyder plans to sign an executive order this morning to create a new state department with a focus on improving the state's workforce. It will be called the Department of Talent and Economic Development.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation will be moved into it. So will the state's unemployment agency. Governor Snyder says developing talent will give Michigan an edge over other states and countries in attracting employers.

Persons with Fungal Infections Linked to Steroid Injections, by State
CDC

UPDATE: This story was updated on 12/18/14 at 9:48 am

Fourteen people face federal charges for mishandling tainted drugs that caused a nationwide meningitis outbreak.

A co-owner of the New England Compounding Center and the supervisory pharmacist face the most serious charges of causing the deaths of 64 people; 23 of those victims were from Michigan.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says his office helped in the federal investigation and he’s pleased to see it led to serious charges.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

UPDATE: This story was updated on 12/17/14 at 3:36 pm 

State officials are reporting what they say is a small natural gas leak in a pipeline in the Upper Peninsula that’s owned by Enbridge Energy.

Brad Wurfel of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says the leak near Manistique was discovered, reported, and fixed by Enbridge. He says there was a small amount of liquid natural gas released, but it quickly evaporated.

“The good news is there’s no lingering environmental damage to discuss with this incident,” he said.

State Capitol
user aunt owwee / Flickr

A couple hundred people showed up outside the state Capitol to protest House Bill 5958, which would create a Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“Five-nine-five-eight is a license to discriminate!” the group chanted on a march around the Capitol and through downtown Lansing.

Bob Pratt of East Lansing was one of the protesters. He says it’s aimed at enabling discrimination against LGBT people.

“There’s no reason for a bill like this. And to then call it the religious freedom bill when it really is a license to discriminate,” he said. “It’s the freedom to discriminate against people that you don’t like and then hide behind religion for it.”

The buzz has begun. Detroit is barely, officially, out of bankruptcy and suddenly the “Snyder for President” coverage begins.

 The national media is talking up the Nerd as a 2016 contender, “Rick Snyder, the Governor of Michigan, has not gotten the same attention as some of the other GOP governors who are looking at the White House,” New York Times political reporter Jonathan Martin told CNN this week. “He is someone who, at the very least, wants to be in the mix for 2016,” Martin explained.

Joe Gratz / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether local governments can require contractors to pay union wages on public projects. The court agreed to hear a challenge to Lansing’s prevailing wage ordinance. But there are at least two dozen other Michigan counties, cities, and townships that have similar rules.

Rick Pluta / MPRN

Governor Rick Snyder says a plan adopted by the state House to shift sales taxes collected on fuel sales to roads won’t work. He says that could rob schools and local governments of money they need to operate.

The state House passed the Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) yesterday and it’s fair to say it was a little dose of Republican Speaker Jase Bolger’s “here’s-how-bad-it-can-get-if-you-don’t-play-along.”

The RFRA was supposed to move in tandem with a measure that would add protections based on sexual orientation to the state’s civil rights law. That was a version that Bolger said he would accept, as long as there was a separate bill that would provide some cover for people who have religious objections to gay rights.

But LGBT advocates said there also should be explicit protections for transgender people. Bolger said he wouldn’t support that.

So, Bolger got the RFRA passed last night, without moving on the LGBT protections, showing the LGBT community just what can happen when you cross him.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A bill that is supposed to protect people exercising their sincerely held religious beliefs from government interference cleared the state House today.

The bill, sponsored by House Speaker Jase Bolger, was brought up right after Bolger declared dead the effort to add LGBT protections to Michigan's civil rights law.

Retired Ford executive and former Wayne State University President Allan Gilmour says adopting LGBT protections in law will help the state attract and retain talent.
Rick Pluta / MPRN

A state House committee adjourned today without voting on legislation that would add LGBT protections to Michigan’s civil rights law, and it appears the effort has stalled as the Legislature grows close to wrapping up for the year.

iRon leSs / flickr

Michigan says it wants out from under court-ordered oversight of the state’s child foster care system. The Michigan Department of Human Services filed a motion today with the U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Carl Levin retires from Congress at the end of the year. He

Michigan’s senior U.S. senator reflects on his career this weekend in an interview on Michigan Public Television.

Levin sat down for an interview with Senior Capitol Correspondent Tim Skubick for the show “Off the Record.”

He says he first started to think about calling it quits a couple years ago. He says the decision not to seek reelection freed him up to focus on his official responsibilities without the distractions of campaigning and fundraising.

Michigan had the lowest turnout in a Governor’s race this year since the John Engler-Geoffrey Fieger face-off of 1998. And, while a lot of Republicans sat out this year, it was mostly Democrats who stayed home in droves on Election Day.

So, despite the low turnout, conservatives can rejoice because Republicans will remain in control in Lansing for at least the next two years. But progressives can, perhaps, find some solace in the fact that getting initiatives and challenges on the ballot will be easier than it has been in 16 years.

(Shout-out to the Lansing political consulting firm Sterling Corporation and its attorney Bob LaBrandt for being the first to point this out.)

Proposals are by and large put on the ballot by petition drives. (The Legislature can also put questions on the ballot.)

The number of signatures required to get a petition on the ballot is based on the number of people who voted in the previous election for governor. So, fewer voters in 2014 means fewer signatures needed to get on the ballot in 2016.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A federal judge in Detroit has refused to toss out a legal challenge to Michigan’s emergency manager law. Judge Joseph Caram Steeh will allow a trial on the claim the law violates equal protection rights in the U.S. Constitution.

Michigan Supreme Court
Michigan Supreme Court / court.mi.gov

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide next year whether the state’s right-to-work law applies to unionized civil service employees.

Four unions representing 35,000 state civil service workers filed the challenge. They say the right-to-work law does not apply to them because of the Michigan Constitution and the independent authority it gives the civil service system.

The right-to-work law was adopted two years ago by the Legislature during a contentious “lame duck” session. It says a union cannot compel an employee to pay union dues or fees as a condition of holding a job.  It’s not known how many workers have opted out of union membership since then.

The unions say the law does not trump the independence of Michigan’s Civil Service system because that is part of the Michigan Constitution. They say union membership is a condition to be negotiated with the state Civil Service Commission. The unions lost 16 months ago at the state Court of Appeals in a split decision. The majority opinion said the law applies equally to all employers.

The right-to-work law says a union cannot compel an employee to pay dues or fees as a condition of holding a job. It does not yet apply to state employees because they work under contracts adopted before the law took effect. 

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