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

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 Also, fixing outdated sewer and drinking water systems.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. 

Joe Gratz / flickr/creative commons

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.

In Lansing, state Senate leaders say they’re scrubbing plans for a summer break in order to work toward a road funding solution. They say they heard John Q. Public loud and clear after the massive failure of Proposal One and that, this time, they’re going to get a roads-fix done.

user eyspahn / Flickr

Candidates for mayor of Flint would get a one-time break from a state filing deadline under a bill before the Michigan Legislature.

It’s a response to bad information from the city clerk’s office.

State Capitol
user aunt owwee / Flickr

A state Senate committee has adopted bills to repeal the law that requires contractors to pay prevailing union wages on publicly funded construction projects.

A lot of the debate and testimony was about whether prevailing wage rules add to the cost of publicly funded projects.

Jake Neher / MPRN

  State Senator Virgil Smith faces felony assault and gun charges in connection with a shooting incident this past weekend. Smith is accused of hitting his ex-wife and shooting at her car.

Smith was arraigned today and did not show up for the state Senate’s session.

State Senator Virgil Smith, D-Detroit.
senatedems.com

State Senator Virgil Smith, D-Detroit, has been arrested in connection with a shooting incident outside his home over the weekend.

The Detroit Police Department is expected to request a warrant on charges of aggravated assault and malicious destruction of property. The assault charge is a felony.

Last week’s defeat of Proposal One means the billion dollar question of how to pay for Michigan’s roads remains unanswered.

Lawmakers were quick to say that they’re going to work throughout the summer to come up with a new plan. But, if they haven’t been able to find a solution yet, what makes them think they’ll be able to now?

John-Morgan / creative commons

Some Democrats are hoping to see a question on the 2016 ballot that would bring the graduated income tax to Michigan.

“And so you look at all the taxes that people pay, people in the middle and at the lower end are paying more of their income in taxes than the wealthy,” said State Rep. Jim Townsend, D-Royal Oak. “A graduated income tax would balance that out.”

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

People who were wrongfully convicted would be entitled to $60,000 for each year they spent in prison, under legislation unveiled today at the state Capitol.

State Rep. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, says it’s the fair thing to do.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Voters said no Tuesday to Proposal 1 by a margin of almost four-to-one. But, as unhappy as people were with the ballot question, they’re still unhappy with the state of Michigan’s roads. 

Speculation continues that Governor Rick Snyder is eyeing a run for the White House.

Just last week, former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman fanned the flames by telling reporters that he met with Snyder in California and that, “he’s running.”

Paul Sancya / Associated Press

Crowds gathered as the US Supreme Court prepared to arguments on whether same-sex marriage bans like Michigan’s violate the Constitution.

A line of people camped out for several days hoping to get into the historic arguments before the Supreme Court.

For April DeBoer, it’s been a bit longer.

Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to take up the historic Michigan-based case that could determine the legality of same sex marriage throughout the United States.

The Court will hear arguments on four same sex marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The Justices will weigh the rights of voters who approved the bans, the rights of gay and lesbian couples who want to be married, and the rights of same-sex couples who are already married in states that allow it.

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth (Betty) Weaver has died. She was 74.

Weaver was twice elected as a Republican to the state’s highest court. But her later time on the bench was marked by frequent battles with other GOP justices over the court’s operations and what she said was excessive secrecy.

Weaver resigned from the court in the summer of 2010, which – to the chagrin of Republicans – allowed then-Governor Jennifer Granholm to name a Democrat to succeed her.  

Weaver lived in Leelanau County, where she served as a probate judge before she was elected to the state Court of Appeals. 

user H.L.I.T. / Flickr

The Michigan Senate has taken an initial step toward overhauling Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance system.

The legislation would set limits on what hospitals could charge insurance companies. It would also cap what insurers can be charged for in-home care for people severely injured in car accidents.

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