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

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder
Gov. Rick Snyder

The next phase of Governor Rick Snyder’s plans for Flint include enforcing drinking water standards that are stricter than federal requirements.

Governor Snyder has complained the federal rule designed to keep lead and copper out of drinking water is confusing and difficult to follow.

There were political fireworks at two hearings in Washington D.C. last week that overshadowed the almost simultaneous beginning of hearings by a state legislative committee on the Flint water crisis.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder and EPA Adminstrator Gina McCarthy are about to go on the hot seat as they take their turn in front of a congressional panel looking into the Flint water crisis.

Remember that time when there was just nothing better than being a Republican governor? When it was almost a given that the next Republican candidate for president would come from the current or former GOP Gubernatorial ranks?

user eyspahn / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Four Republican presidential candidates spent a scant seven and a half minutes talking about Detroit, Flint, and manufacturing at a debate held in Detroit Thursday night.

Jake Neher / MPRN

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is taking aim at free trade deals like NAFTA and the recent Trans Pacific Partnership. He says they’ve cost the country millions of jobs. And he says it’s a critical difference between him and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“Our trade policies have failed,” Sanders said at a press conference today.

Sanders is looking to shore up support among unions and blue collar workers, and says he’s not opposed to trade deals but how they’ve been negotiated by Republican and Democratic administrations. 

People voting.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There are seven primaries or caucuses between now and next Tuesday’s Michigan primary. But candidates and campaigns are already eyeing Michigan as a place to continue their roll or change their fortunes.

It is arguable that no candidate has more at stake in Michigan than Ohio Governor John Kasich. Trailing in the delegate count and yet to win a single primary or caucus, the Republican hopeful needs a win to gain credibility as the not-so-angry alternative to the Donald Trump juggernaut.

New emails from the Snyder administration about the Flint water crisis have been voluntarily released and the revelations have not been kind to Governor Snyder and his inner circle.

Jake Neher / MPRN

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders brought his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president to Flint today.

An enthusiastic crowd packed church pews for the town hall meeting. Sanders said the Flint water crisis is a tragedy, but said the city’s not alone. He says cities across the country face a “collapse” of their infrastructure and if a city and the state can’t handle it, then the federal government needs to step in.

“It is my hope the American people will look at Flint and say never again can we allow a community to undergo this,” Sanders told the crowd. 

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

Democrats in the state Legislature say it’s time to restore citizen oversight panels to supervise air and water programs in the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The independent, appointed panels were eliminated 25 years ago by Republican Governor John Engler and were never brought back under his Democratic successor, Governor Jennifer Granholm, nor by Governor Rick Snyder.

But some lawmakers say now the Flint water crisis and air pollution surrounding an oil refinery in Detroit show it was mistake to scrap the boards.

WMUK

Accused Kalamazoo shooter Jason Dalton was formally charged today with murder, assault with intent to commit murder, and weapons charges. That’s in connection with a weekend shooting spree that left six people dead and two critically injured.

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

A survey of courts across the state has found gaps in what’s being done to ensure poor defendants get proper legal assistance from public defenders.

  

The survey found big differences in how public defenders are retained, paid, and trained. Some courts don’t have private spaces for attorneys to meet with defendants.

Some folks profoundly unhappy with Governor Rick Snyder’s handling of the Flint water crisis will make another attempt at launching a petition drive to recall him.

A mugshot and RAP sheet of Jason Dalton, who police say went on a shooting spree that lasted for hours in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Saturday.
Kalamazoo Public Safety

The suspect in a mass shooting over the weekend in Kalamazoo is expected to be arraigned Monday.

The Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A state House committee has OK’d an emergency spending measure to help Flint residents with a portion of their water bills. The budget would reduce the water portion of Flint residents’ future water and sewer bills.

The $30 million dollar appropriation is on a fast track to be approved by the entire state House. 

The budget measure was adopted and sent to the House floor by the GOP-controlled House Appropriations Committee. But not without attempts by Democrats to add money to forgive all of Flint residents’ water bills, instead of just 65 percent.

Famartin / Wikimedia Commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A package of bills to allow speeds of up to 80 miles an hour on rural highways in Michigan has stalled in the state House. A key bill in the package came a few votes short, which stopped the rest of the bills because none can become law if they all aren’t passed.

Supporters like state Representative Brad Jacobsen say they’ll regroup and try again soon.

He says people are already traveling faster than the current 70 mile-an-hour limit.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder says the federal government has not been held fully accountable for its role in the Flint water crisis.

  

The governor says he’s cleaned house at the state Department of Environmental Quality and is ready to do more. But he says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is also to blame.

Jake Neher / MPRN

Two presidential candidates paid a visit to Michigan on Monday.

In Ypsilanti, more than 9,000 people packed Eastern Michigan University’s Convocation Center today to see Bernie Sanders speak. 

A story circulated recently that took the Republican-led state Senate to task ostensibly for voting to uphold the Michigan statute that outlaws sodomy. The story was widely circulated and re-posted, but there was no actual basis in fact to what started as a blog post.

Gov. Rick Snyder
gophouse.com

Governor Rick Snyder had to push past a throng of protesters as he prepared to present his budget plan for the coming fiscal year. Much of the plan focuses on crises that emerged last year, including the Flint water crisis.

"Drink the water, Rick! Drink the water, Rick! Drink, the water, Rick!” was the chant of protesters just outside the doors. They could be heard inside the room throughout Governor Snyder’s budget rollout to state lawmakers.

Attorney General Bill Schuette
Courtesy of Bill Schuette

The lawyer in charge of state Attorney General Bill Schuette’s investigation into the Flint water crisis says some people may be charged with serious crimes before it’s all over.

  

Todd Flood says criminal charges could include official misconduct by public officials and involuntary manslaughter, depending on what the investigation uncovers. The inquiry will cover both the lead contamination of the drinking water, and outbreaks of Legionnaire’s disease that caused 10 deaths.

  

Gov. Rick Snyder
gophouse.com

A state elections board has approved one petition that seeks to recall Governor Rick Snyder, but rejected several others.

The rejected petitions include efforts to remove the governor for his handling of the Flint water crisis. The rejected petitions were mostly due to spelling and grammar errors that could have made the drives susceptible to a legal challenge. 

Recall leader David Bullock vowed the effort to remove Snyder over what happened in Flint is not over.

Michigan presidential primary voters will head to the polls a month from tomorrow. But, if you think the action is waiting until then, think again.

Hillary Clinton speaking at the House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church in Flint on Sunday.
Sandy Svoboda / WDET

Hillary Clinton took a break over the weekend from stumping for support in New Hampshire to bring her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination to Flint, where the city faces a public health crisis due to lead in the drinking water.

Clinton’s visit capped an hours-long church revival meeting filled with songs, sermons, and a pastor with a sense of humor as he noted the packed seats at the House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church.

“I got a question: Where y’all been?”  asked Elder Kenneth Stewart to peals of laughter from the congregation.

The ballot campaign to add LGBT and women’s rights to the state constitution is kaput, at least for this year.

Suspending the campaign

The Fair Michigan campaign succumbed to the reality this past week that it was not going to get the establishment support and financial backing it needed to put the question of adding gender equality and LGBT rights to the state constitution’s equal protection clause.

The Snyder administration is now in over-drive to create both the perception and the reality that the state is engaged in making rapid progress in dealing with the Flint water crisis.

It’s practically a political certainty that Governor Rick Snyder will announce a plan for cleaning up the Flint water crisis tomorrow evening when he delivers his sixth State of the State address.

Flint water takes front seat

State of the State speeches tend to be laundry lists of accomplishments and ambitions, but it’s what the Governor says about Flint, and how the state is going to tackle the water crisis it helped to create, that will command the most attention.

The state Legislature returns to the Capitol this week and Governor Rick Snyder will kick off the political year in Lansing with his State of the State address next week.


Researchers at Virginia Tech received samples of Flint water (both clear and discolored) from residents. Dr. Edwards and his team there were among the first to call attention to lead contamination in Flint's water.
Flint Water Study / Facebook

Five new centers have been set up in Flint to get water filters and testing kits to city residents.

It’s another step to address the lead contamination crisis in Flint as Governor Rick Snyder faced a growing crescendo of criticism over the weekend on the state’s handling of the crisis.

Gov. Rick Snyder

Governor Rick Snyder and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver met today to discuss the city’s water crisis, and the state’s role in solving a problem it helped create.

State-appointed emergency managers decided to save money by using the Flint River for drinking water damaged pipes. That move damaged pipes and caused lead to leach into the water. 

Following the meeting, Governor Snyder publicly apologized for a second time for the state’s role in Flint’s water crisis.

“We want to work closely together to earn the trust of the people of Flint,” he said.

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