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

Gray wolves.
USFWS / Flickr

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it won’t change the status of the gray wolf in Michigan and other Great Lakes states from “endangered” to “threatened.”

Michigan wildlife officials cheered the decision, even though it denies them a measure of flexibility to manage wolves in the western Upper Peninsula.

 A state panel says Wayne County is in a state of “probable financial stress.” It was a unanimous determination by the Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board. 

Board member and state Treasurer Nick Khouri says now the state will send in a review team to examine the books in Michigan’s most-populous county, which includes the city of Detroit and its suburbs.

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

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a bill that stops local governments from adopting their own ordinances that cover wages and working conditions.

The new law does not affect existing ordinances, but it does preempt nascent efforts to adopt local “living wage” and mandatory sick leave ordinances. In a written statement, Governor Snyder says it makes sense to ensure consistency in local ordinances that regulate jobs and employment.

The Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage has many people happy and relieved. None more so, politically speaking, than Republicans who’ve wanted to see the issue go away.

Moderate Republicans like Governor Rick Snyder have always detested getting wrapped up in the culture wars. 

Nicholas Eckhart / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A deli worker at a Kroger supermarket is filing an employment discrimination complaint against the company and her union. She says it’s because a jointly run health benefits fund refused to accept
her wife after the two were legally married last year.

Stephanie Citron married her same-sex partner during the brief window last year when it was legal in Michigan. Once she went full-time with Kroger, she learned that her health benefits fund only covers the
spouses of opposite-sex married couples.

6/25/2015 Update:

Lon Johnson will make his candidacy for Michigan's 1st Congressional District official this afternoon in the Upper Peninsula. A press release sent to reporters this morning states:

Democrat Lon Johnson will announce his candidacy for Congress in Michigan’s First Congressional District, challenging Republican incumbent Dan Benishek. Johnson will make the announcement at the Marquette County Democrats’ annual Summer Sizzle Picnic in Ishpeming, MI. 

Lon Johnson grew up in a family with five generations of Northern Michigan history and has worked in American manufacturing and as a civilian in Iraq. Lon, 44, lives in Kalkaska County and is married to Julianna Smoot. Lon is currently the Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party.

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the state Capitol say it’s time for prison kitchens to be inspected by local health agencies. That’s after the most recent instance of maggots found in a corrections food service facility.

  

Prison kitchens are exempt from local health inspections. 

Dave Trumpie / Courtesy photo

County clerks across the state are getting ready for however the U.S. Supreme Court might rule on legalizing same-sex marriage.

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum says she’s keeping an e-mail list of gay and lesbian couples that want to get married, “…so when a decision in support of equality does come down, I can have direct communication with those parties that may be interested in obtaining a marriage license.”

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

County clerks across the state are getting ready for however the U.S. Supreme Court might rule on legalizing same-sex marriage.

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum says she’s keeping an e-mail list of gay and lesbian couples that want to get married, “…so when a decision in support of equality does come down, I can have direct communication with those parties that may be interested in obtaining a marriage license.”

morguefile.com

A state lawmaker has called for repealing the four-year-old state law that allowed consumers to buy more powerful fireworks. The law also bars local governments from banning fireworks around national holidays.

A state board that guards against corruption in the gaming industry violated the constitutional rights of four jockeys who refused to cooperate with a 2010 race-rigging investigation. That decision just came down from the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The harness racers were suspended and denied renewals of their licenses under a commission rule. It requires licensees to cooperate with investigations or lose their racing industry licenses. 

There are rumors that powerhouse Oakland County Executive and outspoken Republican L. Brooks Patterson may not run again in 2016, leaving Republicans in a bind.

LGBT flag
antiochla.edu / Antioch University

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law that allows faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to work with same-sex couples or other families based on a religious objection.

The governor says he signed the law to ensure the most opportunities to place children with permanent families. But, the law is almost certain to face a legal challenge.

Inside the Michigan Senate
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Controversial adoption on its way to Governor Rick Snyder would allow faith-based adoption agencies that take public money to refuse to work with same-sex couples. That’s even if the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage.

The legislation says adoption agencies that take public funds can turn away prospective clients based on a religious objection. That pretty much mirrors the existing state policy.

NOAA

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration has released a first draft of a 30-year strategy for protecting and improving the state’s water resources.

The plan says there are environmental and economic benefits to protecting and improving lakes, rivers, and streams. The plan includes connecting waterways to promote tourism. Also, fixing outdated sewer and drinking water systems.

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law that will allow a private corrections company to accept inmates who've been security risks at other prisons at a facility in northern Michigan.

The Baldwin private prison – closed since 2005 – is owned by the GEO Group. The new law allows GEO's currently dormant North Lake Correctional Facility to house “level five” inmates who've been convicted of fighting and attempting to escape. 

flickr user Joe Gratz / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A federal appeals court says a northern Michigan Indian tribe does not get to set its own labor rules at the casino it operates near Manistee.

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians claimed tribal sovereignty allowed it to adopt its own laws that ban strikes and discourage union organizing by casino employees. The Teamsters challenged the tribal act, and the union won before the National Labor Relations Board.

A certain fact in politics: it is never too soon to start thinking about elections; particularly if you want to win them.

2016, 2018, 2020…

Thetoad / Flickr

The Legislature has approved budgets for the coming fiscal year.

The K-12 schools budget was enthusiastically endorsed by Republicans and Democrats. Every school district in the state will see a funding bump of $70 to $140 per student under the new K-12 budget the Legislature just sent to Governor Rick Snyder.

Micah Morow / morgueFile

The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld the state’s ban on Russian boar and other breeds of exotic swine.

  

Michigan banned several strains of boar as invasive species because they breed prolifically, endanger other wildlife, and ruin woods and farmland.

John-Morgan / creative commons

A state House panel is eyeing the elimination of a tax credit for working poor families to help come up with more money for roads.

Representative Jeff Farrington, R-Utica, chairs the House Roads and Economic Development Committee. He says eliminating the state’s earned income tax credit would add about $120 million for road funding.

What has happened to the once-esteemed Earned Income Tax Credit?  Everyone used to love it.

The EITC is the target this week as state House Republicans continue hearings as they look for ways to raise more than $1 billion for roads without raising taxes.

morgueFile

The Michigan Department of Transportation is close to re-negotiating a deal on leased rail cars that are sitting un-used in a state lot.

The state’s already paid $11 million to the Great Lakes Central Railroad on the leases.  

Tim Hoeffner is the director of the Office of Rail in the Michigan Department of Transportation.

He says the arrangement would allow the state to suspend its lease payments for up to five years “and the Great Lakes Central Railroad would try to lease the equipment, sub-lease the equipment and try to generate revenue from these other lease opportunities.” 

Eric Parker / Flickr http://ow.ly/Nwyd0

Governor Rick Snyder tells a business conference on Mackinac Island that training and getting people interested in skilled trades is his top economic development priority.        

  

Thousands of employers – including some of the state’s largest – attend the annual Detroit Regional Chamber event. The state’s new Talent Investment Agency says many of those employers complain Michigan has a “skills gap” in its workforce.

Stefan Kellner / Flickr http://ow.ly/NtcRu

Republican state lawmakers are eyeing electric and hybrid vehicles as a possible source of road money. They say vehicles that are built to use less fuel should have to pay higher registration fees.

This week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference gets underway on Mackinac Island. This is when Lansing, political Lansing at least, empties out of town and heads north to rub shoulders – and click cocktail glasses – with Michigan’s movers and shakers in businesses, finance and philanthropy.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A petition drive is launching this weekend in an effort to ban a controversial natural gas extraction process.

This will be the third time the campaign’s tried to get a question to outlaw fracking on the Michigan ballot.

LuAnne Kozma is leading the effort. She says with every attempt, it’s gotten easier to get people to sign the petitions.

Lauri Rantala / Wikimedia Commons

The state Senate could vote today on legislation that would ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. But Governor Rick Snyder says he’s against the bills and hopes lawmakers will adopt a different course.

Snyder says he’s opposed because he wants e-cigarettes to be regulated and taxed the same as tobacco. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state Senate has taken a critical step toward giving candidates another chance to be on the Flint mayoral ballot.

Legislation adopted on Tuesday would set a new deadline for candidates to qualify for the August mayoral primary. It would be a one-time exception to state elections law after no candidates qualified for the August ballot based on erroneous information from the Flint city clerk.

michigan.gov

Gov. Rick Snyder outlined a public safety agenda on Monday that includes parole and sentencing reforms, job training for inmates, and more help finding a job once they’re released from prison.

Snyder says there are data-driven ways to reduce the state’s prison population without compromising public safety.

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