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

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Politics & Government
9:30 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Road package moves to Senate with funding source unresolved

Credit Wikimedia Commons

The state House has approved a transportation funding package that would ensure about $450 million a year is spent on to road repairs and maintenance.

That’s still far short of the $1.2 billion Gov. Rick Snyder wants to fix and maintain roads.      

But supporters of the plan say it’s a good first step.

“Good roads equal good jobs, and a strengthened economy, so let’s work together to put Michigan back to work,” said state Rep. and House Transportation Committee Chairman Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City.

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Detroit bankruptcy
6:03 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Detroit plan would put city’s finances under board supervision

The "grand bargain" seeks to shield works from the DIA from liquidation, and protect worker pensions.
Credit Maia C/Flickr

The state of Michigan would tap into its “rainy day” savings to put almost $200 million toward the Detroit bankruptcy settlement under bailout legislation introduced today. The savings account would be repaid from tobacco settlement money.

The state payment is part of a so-called “Grand Bargain” to mitigate cuts to pensions, and ensure that works owned by the Detroit Institute of Arts aren’t sold off as part of the city’s bankruptcy.

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Politics & Government
3:56 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Second wolf hunt referendum approved for November ballot

As many as three wolf hunting measures - two against, one for - could be on the November ballot.
Credit endangeredspecieslawandpolicy.com

The November ballot could be crowded with hunting questions.

A state elections panel today certified petition signatures for a referendum on Michigan’s wolf-hunting law. That’s in addition to a referendum on an earlier version of the law.  

Meanwhile, a third petition drive is underway that would preserve the wolf hunt.          

All this could lead to some confusion on the November ballot, and the outcome of the election.

Chris Thomas is Michigan’s director of elections. He said, historically, the practice has been the one with the most votes wins.

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Politics & Government
9:22 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Mike Rogers: Growing isolationism bad for US

Michigan U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) says he’s very concerned that war-weary Americans are growing more withdrawn from world events.

Rogers gives up his congressional seat next year as well as his chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee to pursue a new career as a talk radio host. The lawmaker has served in Congress since 2001 and has intelligence chairman since 2011.

Rogers says he sees plenty of evidence that the U.S. may be entering a new isolationist period.

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Courts
9:19 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Energy company agrees to pay Michigan $5 million anti-trust fine

Credit (courtesy Michigan Attorney General's office)

An energy company has agreed to pay a $5 million fine and plead no contest to a misdemeanor anti-trust charge as part of a plea deal. Under the bargain, Encana Oil & Gas USA also promised to help the state pursue legal action against another oil company.

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It's Just Politics
2:29 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

GOP still has to manage and romance Tea Party as LG challenge fizzles

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

Update: 1:25 PM, Monday, May 5th, 2014

 

Well, blow the “trumpet of shame” on us. Right after we predicted here that the prospective challengers to Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley would fall short, Wes Nakagiri goes and turns in 33 signatures from the ranks of Michigan Republican State Central Committee to get his name placed in consideration at the party’s summer convention. The rules require at least three signatures from committee members in at least three congressional districts. It appears Nakagiri’s crossed his t’s and dotted his i’s, but the Michigan GOP’s policy committee still has to affirm the signatures. That could happen at its July meeting, if not sooner. Calley’s still the odds-on favorite to win re-nomination.

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We’ve talked quite a bit already about the friction within the Michigan Republican Party between the GOP establishment and its perpetually perturbed Tea Party wing. The Tea Party’s restless longings are coalescing lately around the possibility of toppling Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley from the ticket.

It almost happened four years ago as many in the Tea Party deemed Republican nominee-for- governor Rick Snyder as insufficiently conservative, and tried to put one of their own on the ticket in place of One Tough Nerd’s choice, then-state Representative Calley. And when that effort failed (but not by much), they felt robbed.

“In politics, you know, they do whatever it takes! They scratch! They claw! They bite!” said one angry delegate to the 2010 GOP summer convention.Tea Partiers now harbor some hopes of pulling it off this year as a payback for the Medicaid expansion, Common Core, the autism insurance mandate and other Snyder administration initiatives.

But Lieutenant Gov. Calley seems to have warded off that challenge – for the moment.

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Detroit bankruptcy
10:38 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Snyder would like committee to oversee Detroit finances post-bankruptcy

Gov. Rick Snyder says he thinks there’s progress in negotiations on a Detroit bailout.
Credit gophouse.com

Gov. Rick Snyder says he’s sensing progress in negotiations with the Legislature to put $350 million of state money toward Detroit’s bankruptcy settlement. That money would help fund pensions and ensure the assets of the Detroit Institute of Arts don’t get put up for auction.

Snyder says the bargain has to include an end to legal challenges to the bankruptcy. He would also like to have a financial oversight panel to help manage the city’s finances post-bankruptcy.

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Politics & Government
5:09 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Detroit EM tries to sell bailout to lawmakers

Gov. Snyder and Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr need to convince reluctant Republican lawmakers to send $350 million to Detroit.
Credit LiveStream

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr is spending a couple of days in Lansing for closed-door meetings with state officials. His primary mission is to convince reluctant state lawmakers to support the Detroit bailout package.

The state’s share, which would have to be approved by the Legislature, is $350 million dollars. That would help mitigate cuts to pension benefits as part of the city’s bankruptcy, and ensure the assets of the Detroit Institute of Arts are safe from the auction block.

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Law
10:58 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

State agriculture commission approves backyard livestock rule

Backyard livestock farmers can no longer automatically claim they’re protected under the state’s Right to Farm Act if their chickens, goats, and other livestock are in an area defined by the state as “primarily residential.”
Credit Susie Blackmon / Flickr

A state agriculture commission has adopted a new rule on livestock in residential areas. It gives local governments more authority to ban or regulate raising farm animals in backyards.

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It's Just Politics
2:46 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

GOP plan to stop drive to increase the minimum wage: increase the minimum wage, of course

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It’s Michigan minimum wage redux. This week, conservative Republican state Senator Rick Jones introduced a bill to increase Michigan’s minimum wage from $7.40 to $8.15 an hour. The measure would also increase the minimum wage for tipped workers from $2.65 to $2.75 an hour.

Yes, you read that correctly. A Republican lawmaker wants to increase the state’s minimum wage.

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Politics & Government
9:50 pm
Thu April 24, 2014

Snyder: Michigan needs more migrant farm workers

Gov. Snyder says Michigan needs more migrant farm laborers.
Credit Craig Camp / flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder says Michigan needs to do more to attract seasonal migrant laborers to work on farms this spring and summer.

Last year, Michigan asparagus farmers lost about 2 million pounds – or 10% of their crop – because they didn’t have enough workers. Michigan competes with Texas and California for farm labor, and Gov. Snyder says there are already concerns that Michigan won’t be able to lure enough agriculture labor this year.  

“And so we want to get the word out to people, particularly in that category, to say: Please, come to Michigan. You’re welcome here.”

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It's Just Politics
6:12 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Can the GOP maintain that Tea Party love and win mid-term elections?

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

History suggests that this election year should be friendly to Republicans. That’s because Republicans are more likely to turn out in mid-term elections than Democrats, and the party out of the White House, especially in a president’s second term, tends to have an advantage. With about six and a half months to go before the November election, a lot of Republicans are harboring hopes that this is going to be a good year to be a Republican.

But here’s a question: Which kind of Republican is it best to be this year?

In Michigan -- just like nationally -- there’s some tension between the three threads of the GOP coalition. That’s the  Establishment Republicans, the Tea Party, and the Liberty Movement.

We’ll get a better idea of how big this fight is (and if it’s a fight at all worth talking about) after this coming Tuesday’s filing deadline. We’ll see exactly where and how many Tea Partiers will “primary” an establishment Republican figure, and where the Republican establishment (and by that we mean chamber of commerce Republicans) will try to dislodge a Tea Partier from Congress or the Legislature.

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Law
9:09 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Schuette asks for fast action on gay marriage case

“The sooner we have a more thoughtful and complete and full review of this case, I think the better off everybody is, but I think we want a resolution on it,” Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a conference call.
Credit Michigan Attorney General

  State Attorney General Bill Schuette has asked a federal appeals court to put the legal challenge to Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage on a fast track. Schuette is defending Michigan’s ban.

Schuette’s filed a motion with the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to skip a hearing before a three judge panel and go directly to the entire 15-judge court. That could shave months, maybe as much as a year, off the appeals process. Schuette says the question needs to settled regardless of who wins in the end. 

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It's Just Politics
2:53 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Will POTUS visits, petition drive help turn out Obama voters?

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

President Obama was in Ann Arbor this week at the University of Michigan to throw his Democratic base some red meat* by stumping for the minimum wage. He called on Congress to pass legislation to boost the national minimum wage and he also endorsed a petition drive under way in Michigan to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.40 an hour to $10.10 an hour by 2017.

Democrats’ hopes of keeping control of the U.S. Senate in 2014 rest largely with keeping the seat that Sen. Carl Levin is retiring from later this year. Republicans appear to be in good shape come November because their voters are typically more likely to turn out in the off cycle, and because the party out of the White House typically does well in midterm elections.

Republicans also think they can win by relentlessly reminding the public of Obamacare. But what if Democrats can jujitsu that? That’s the political point of these presidential visits.

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Environment & Science
6:55 am
Wed April 2, 2014

State replies to Army Corps invasive species report

Credit Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has filed the state’s response to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' invasive species report. Schuette says his biggest complaint is the report fails to outline an aggressive plan to stop Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.              

The report came out in January, and it outlines possibilities without making specific recommendations on what should happen next.

That was a disappointment, says Joy Yearout, Schuette’s communications director.

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Politics & Government
5:11 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

U.S. Rep. Dave Camp says he won't seek re-election

Credit user republicanconference / Flickr

Michigan Congressman Dave Camp has announced he will not seek reelection this year. Camp joins a string of Michigan congressional veterans who’ve said they plan to sit out this year’s election.

Camp’s office sent out this statement:

“Today, I am announcing that I will not seek re-election to the United States House of Representatives.  This decision was reached after much consideration and discussion with my family.

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It's Just Politics
3:05 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Politicos must do some fast thinking if they want Rogers’ seat

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

A political stunner slapped all of our political cheeks awake this morning, just like that scene with Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.

The news? Seven-term Republican Congressman Mike Rogers announced he is retiring from Congress. Retiring from Congress, but not the political circus. He is going to start a national radio show devoted to foreign policy and national defense, which is his bailiwick as the Chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee.

Rogers is also a well-known talking head. Last year, he appeared more than any other elected official on the Sunday morning news circuit. And he’s got the TV sound bites down, just last week on Meet the Press, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin, “goes to bed thinking of Peter the Great and wakes up thinking of Stalin.”

It’s not just how fond he seemed of Congress that is what makes Rogers’, who represents Lansing, Brighton, Howell and parts of Northern Oakland County, announcement so surprising, but his fondness in particular for the House of Representatives. In fact, there was speculation last year that the reason he didn’t jump into the race for Carl Levin’s open Senate seat was because he enjoyed his job in the House so much.

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Politics & Government
11:53 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Democrats ask for recognition of recent gay marriages in Michigan

The Rev. Bill Freeman signs marriage licenses and performs cermonies at Harbor Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Muskegon.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan's congressional Democrats are asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for federal recognition of the more than 300 same-sex marriages performed in the state this past weekend. The letter is signed by Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, and Reps. John Dingell, Sander Levin, Gary Peters and Dan Kildee.

A judge ruled last Friday that Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, but the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals put a hold on further same-sex weddings while it deliberates the Michigan marriage case.

Yesterday, Gov. Snyder said the marriages performed over the weekend in Michigan are legal, but they cannot be officially recognized by the state because of current law. Here's what he said:

In January, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the government would honor same-sex marriages in Utah in a case very similar to Michigan's. The Justice Department so far has said it's monitoring the situation in Michigan.

Law
6:44 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Appeals court keeps stay on Michigan same-sex marriages in place

Credit Michigan Radio

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has extended the freeze on same-sex marriages in Michigan. The court granted the state’s request to put a hold on last week’s decision that struck down Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional.      

The panel’s 2-1 ruling continues the legal limbo of more than 300 gay and lesbian couples who were married during the weekend window before the door was closed.

Four county clerks opened their doors over the weekend to issue marriage licenses before they were stopped by the Sixth Circuit.      

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Developing
4:00 pm
Sat March 22, 2014

Same-sex couples flock to clerks' offices to wed ahead of temporary stay

Jere Clausen and Bruce Walters were the first gay couple to be married in Muskegon County this morning.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Update 5:05 p.m.

In a reversal from what it signaled earlier in the day, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a temporary stay on the decision to strike down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage. 

The court said it issued the stay to allow a "more reasoned consideration" of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's request for a hold on Friday's decision.

3:43 p.m.

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