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. 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.

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Election 2012
1:52 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Mitt Romney campaigning in DeWitt, Mich.

Ann and Mitt Romney
Rick Pluta Michigan Public Radio Network

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney began speaking a short time ago to a crowd in DeWitt, Mich. Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta sent along these photos. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith will be in Holland this evening covering Romney's campaign stop in West Michigan.

Politics
7:05 am
Tue June 19, 2012

Democrats, protesters prep for Romney visit

Mitt Romney plans to visit Michigan today
Gage Skidmore Flickr

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will be in Michigan today to wind up a tour of battleground states. The states were all won by President Obama four years ago, and Republicans need to flip one or more of them to win the White House.

Republicans like their chances in Michigan. Romney and his wife were both born here. His father served as governor. Some recent polls suggest the state’s a toss-up.

But no Republican presidential nominee has won the state since 1988, and Romney opposed much of the auto bailout that’s credited with leading the state’s economic recovery.

So Democrats sponsored their own bus tour with stops not far from where Romney will appear.

“One of the things we wanted to do is greet Mitt Romney with some headlines about what we think his policies will do to Michigan, and so we wanted to get out ahead of him," says Brad Woodhouse of the Democratic National Committee.

The liberal group MoveOn.org plans have protesters waiting for Romney at each stop in his tour, which will wind up with a rally near Holland on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Politics
6:34 am
Tue June 19, 2012

“Vagina Monologues” attracts thousands at state Capitol (Slideshow)

Thousands of people gathered last night at the state Capitol to protest with a staging of the "Vagina Monologues."
Rick Pluta Michigan Public Radio Network

A few thousand people crowded onto the lawn of the state Capitol last night to protest last week's silencing  of two female state lawmakers, and to watch a performance of “The Vagina Monologues.”

Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta was there and reports that, "the word 'vagina' was everywhere – emblazoned on signs and t-shirts. 'Vagina,' and virtually every slang variation, was part of the theatrical performance. People shouted it out and waved their fingers in Vs. 'Gimme the three Vs! Vagina! Voice! Vote!'

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Politics & Government
3:29 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

Protest performance of Vagina Monologues planned at Capitol

Eve Ensler, writer of "The Vagina Monologues" will attend the protest performance tonight in Lansing
Justin Hoch Wikimedia Commons

There will be a protest performance tonight of “The Vagina Monologues” at the state Capitol. Female legislators and author Eve Ensler will read from the play that was first performed in 1996.

The event is a response to state House Republican leaders’ decision to bar two female lawmakers from speaking on the floor last week. It was a punishment for comments made by state Representatives Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum during a debate.

Brown says she has heard from people in virtually every state of the union. 

“You know what? I think it has triggered an outrage amongst the American people," she said. "Not just women, but men as well and to see this kind of disregard, the disrespect and it really is a war on women. It’s not just a sound bite.  There really is a war on women.” 

Brown will be one of the performers tonight.

More than 3,500 people have posted on Facebook that they plan to attend the event.

Politics
5:40 pm
Thu June 14, 2012

Michigan legislature sends tax reductions to Gov. Snyder

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI.
Matthileo Flickr

The Legislature has sent election-year tax reductions to Governor Rick Snyder for his approval.

The measures would accelerate a reduction in the state income tax rate, and increase the personal exemption. That’s after a tax rate rollback was delayed last year.
    
The House also approved a measure to continue rolling back income tax rates through 2018.
    
Democratic state Representative Vicki Barnett was one of just a handful of “no”’ votes.

She says the six-year rollback is poorly planned, and could force more cuts down the road to schools and public safety.

“The numbers don’t work. I’m a financial planner in my private life. I’ve looked at the numbers. The numbers don’t work. I would love to be able to return excess money to the taxpayer, but after we fund critical services to the level they should be funded at," said Barnett.

The Legislature begins its summer break today. The state Senate could take up the six-year rollback later this year.

Politics
5:01 pm
Thu June 14, 2012

Women Reps in Michigan barred from speaking, one for "vagina" mention

Democratic State Representative Lisa Brown addressing the floor of the assembly
Jeff Winston YouTube

Update 4:57 p.m.

Here is the latest from Rick Pluta:

Two women serving in the state House have been barred from participating in floor debates for one day. The sanction is a punishment for things they said during a debate on anti-abortion legislation.

State Representatives Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum are both Democrats. Brown made a reference to her vagina in a floor statement.

“I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina,” she said, “but 'no' means 'no.'”

Byrum shouted at the presiding officer after she was not recognized to speak. 

Ari Adler is the spokesman for the House Republican leadership.

“It is the responsibility of every member who serves in the House of Representatives to maintain decorum on the House floor and when they do not do that, there can be actions because of that. And the action today is to not recognize either representative to speak on the House floor," he said.

Brown was speaking during a debate on anti-abortion bills, and has no apologies for what she said.

“I used an anatomically correct word. I said ‘vagina,'" she said.  "Can I not say ‘elbow?' I don’t see what the difference is."

This is the first time in memory that lawmakers have been formally barred from participating in floor debates.

Update 1:10 p.m.

Watch footage of the Lisa Brown speech here:

12:32 p. m.

Two Democratic lawmakers say they have been barred from speaking during House debates.

The House Republican leadership confirms that state Representative Lisa Brown will not be recognized during debates as a sanction for mentioning her vagina during a debate on anti-abortion legislation.

State Representative Barb Byrum also says she has been barred from speaking in the future because of an outburst after she was not called on during the abortion debate.

A House Republican spokesman could not confirm whether that's true.

Politics
1:02 pm
Thu June 14, 2012

Emergency manager referendum headed for November ballot, for now

The referendum on the state's emergency manager law is headed to the ballot...for now.

The state Court of Appeals has refused to convene a special panel that could have reversed a precedent that says the referendum campaign met the minimum requirements to qualify for the ballot. That could have prevented the proposal from appearing on the November ballot. 

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Politics
5:58 pm
Tue June 12, 2012

Abortion debate heats up at state Capitol

Amanda Kennedy of Mason and Susie Simons of East Lansing were among the hundreds of protesters at a rally on the Capitol lawn. Kennedy and Simons oppose a package of anti-abortion bills to be voted on this week by the state House.
Rick Pluta Michigan Public Radio

Protesters in pink shirts filled the lawn of the state Capitol and packed the gallery of the state House today.

They were protesting a group of anti-abortion bills to be voted on this week by the House. The legislation would outlaw terminating a pregnancy after 20 weeks. It would also require clinics to be inspected, and impose new restrictions on abortion providers.           

“Frankly, these bills terrify me,” said Susie Simons of East Lansing. I’m completely afraid to get pregnant if these bills pass because if anything happens to me past 20 weeks I either have to die or carry a dead baby. So, I’m really terrified for my safety and for so many other women.”

A group of about 20 abortion opponents also lined up on the other side of the walkway leading to the Capitol.

“I am a strong believer in life and I believe the baby’s rights should be protected and I really want these bills to go through because I think they are also helping women. They are protecting them at the same time as the baby, too,” said Jennah Sailor, a member of the University of Michigan chapter of Students for Life.

The measures would forbid terminating a pregnancy after 20 weeks, and would impose new restrictions on clinics and abortion providers. Abortion rights advocates say the measures would force some clinics that provide an array of services to women to shut down.

The measures are up for House votes as soon as tomorrow.

They are expected to pass since a substantial majority of state House members are endorsed by anti-abortion groups.

Politics
10:21 am
Tue June 12, 2012

Romney to conclude battleground bus tour in Michigan

publiceye.org wikimedia commons

A five-day, six-state bus tour by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will wind up next week in his home state of Michigan.

Romney last visited Michigan in May.

The Michigan swing with three stops will cap off a tour of half a dozen states deemed potential battlegrounds by the Romney campaign.

A survey of voters released last week suggests Michigan could be a toss-up between Romney and President Obama.

The president has made almost a dozen trips to Michigan to talk about green energy jobs, or to proclaim the success of the automotive rescue package. His campaign will spend this week calling attention to businesses that benefited from the auto recovery. Romney – who was born in Detroit -- opposed government loans to keep Chrysler and GM solvent through bankruptcy.

State Legislature
6:34 am
Mon June 11, 2012

Lawmaker hopes Michigan will follow California’s example on term limits

Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

Barely a week ago, California voters approved changes to the state’s term limits law. California will now allow state lawmakers to serve up to a dozen years in one chamber before they are forced out of office and, a Republican legislator in Michigan hopes this state will follow California’s example.

California’s old term limits law was similar to the one in Michigan that allows lawmakers no more than six years in the House and eight years in the Senate. 

Republican state Senator John Pappageorge says Michigan has suffered because state lawmakers are inexperienced and never learn to work together.

Pappageorge says the idea of tweaking term limits is popular with Michigan voters. But he says politicians are reluctant to change them.

“The bean counters on the Democrat side say, ‘This will help the Republicans.’ The bean counters on the Republican side say, ‘This will help the Democrats.’ That’s what I’ve been trying to overcome.”

Pappageorge says he still hopes to amend term limits in Michigan before he is termed out of office in 2014.

It's Just Politics
6:59 pm
Fri June 8, 2012

Just how does a politican decide whether or not to back an income tax rollback

Zoe Clark: It's Just Politics, I'm Zoe Clark.

Rick Pluta: And, I'm Rick Pluta.

ZC: And, Rick, I think it’s only fair to say that Democratic lawmakers at the state Capitol are not happy.

RP: Indeed, they’re mad.

ZC: Mad about the passage of an income-tax reduction.

RP: And they made their point known on the House floor.

ZC: So, of course, when it came time to actually vote, Democrats rallied together and voted a resounding, “No.”

RP: Whoa, whoa, whoa, Zoe, don’t go that far. Yes, they railed against it. Said it’s too little by way of “tax relief” – that phrase that gets tossed about when we’re discussing tax cuts -- for middle class families compared to all the tax exemptions and credits that were scrapped last year by Republicans in the name of tax fairness.

ZC: Democrats say this is the wrong use of $90 million earmarked for so-called “tax relief.” They say it’s also pretty paltry and that Republicans are just playing election year politics. But they still voted for it. So, what gives?

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Politics & Government
5:46 pm
Fri June 8, 2012

Voters still in limbo: Court rules on ballot measure challenging emergency manager law

A three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals says the referendum to challenge Michigan’s emergency manager law should go on the November ballot. But the judges say they don’t agree with the precedent governing their decision.

The court found the referendum campaign was in substantial compliance with state election law. That’s despite a question over whether a portion of its petition was printed in the wrong font size. But the court said it does not agree with the earlier decision that governs the case. So the court delayed enforcement of its decision, and called for a rarely used procedure that’s usually used to reconcile conflicting case law.

A majority of the 28 judges on the state Court of Appeals would have to vote to convene a “super-panel” of seven judges to decide whether the precedent was wrongly decided. That could clear the way for the Court of Appeals to keep the referendum off the ballot.

Transportation
7:37 am
Mon June 4, 2012

Federal, state and local leaders meet today to discuss light rail in Detroit

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will visit Detroit today. He’ll meet with a wide-ranging group of government officials and business leaders on the future of light rail transit in the city. The M-1 project on the main thoroughfare of Woodward Avenue could eventually connect with a regional system.

Governor Rick Snyder plans to attend. He says light rail is part of a strategy to make Michigan’s largest city as attractive to entrepreneurs and young people as Chicago or Boston.

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Crime
6:29 pm
Sat June 2, 2012

Michigan Supreme Court clears way for Detroit vote on marijuana

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Supreme Court has cleared the way for Detroiters to vote on whether their city will be the first in the state to legalize marijuana.

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It's Just Politics
5:30 pm
Fri June 1, 2012

Dirty politics: The new normal in Michigan?

Intrigue. Deception. Conspiracy... Yes, it certainly feels like politics in Michigan is becoming a little more wrought with fraud-filled stories. In this week's It's Just Politics, we ask: are dirty politics the new normal in Michigan?

Zoe Clark: Allegations of fraud. That’s the big political story this week.

Rick Pluta: Petition fraud – it’s the new hanging chad.

ZC: Can we call this the “Hanging Thad” scandal?

RP: You are referring, of course, to Thad McCotter.

ZC: The Republican congressman from Livonia, failed presidential candidate and guitar hero is not disputing that he does not have enough petition signatures to qualify for the primary ballot.

RP: He did own up. He released a statement, accepting “full responsibility” – his words -- for the screw-up...  And then he blamed someone else, that he had trusted the wrong people. 

ZC: That’s the way the pros do it! But it’s why he doesn’t have the signatures that’s so….. weird.

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COURTS
5:35 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Court ruling clarifies how criminal defendants treated in medical marijuana cases

eggrole flickr

An opinion today by the state Supreme Court adds some definition to Michigan’s 2008 voter-approved medical marijuana law.

The court made a series of rulings on what’s allowed for defendants who’ve been  charged with drug crimes and don’t have a state- issued medical marijuana card. The court says a doctor’s diagnosis is a defense for someone charged with possessing marijuana without a medical marijuana card.

But the Supreme Court says there are limits. The court says there’s no going to a doctor after being busted for a diagnosis that a patient would benefit from medical marijuana. And a diagnosis has to have been made after voters approved the law.

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Politics
5:26 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Gov. Snyder: Michigan should be center of N. American manufacturing

Gov. Rick Snyder
michigan.gov

Governor Rick Snyder says Michigan can be the leading center of manufacturing in North America – if the state makes the right moves.

The governor says his plan is based on the direction he sees the global economy taking.

“There’s going to be one spot that’s going to be the standout place on each continent that’s going to be the place that makes stuff and you’re going to have global organizations that are saying, when I go to a different continent, I’m going to go to the place that’s  the best at making something,” Snyder told attendees of a business conference on Mackinac Island.   

The governor says Michigan’s history, engineering expertise, and related activities such as agriculture can all combine to make the state attractive to global manufacturers. He says a new international bridge in Detroit is also part of the plan. He accuses the owners of the Ambassador Bridge, who would compete with another border crossing, of spreading lies about the cost of the project to taxpayers.  

It's Just Politics
8:56 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Mackinac Policy Conference: A political free-for-all

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. The Grand hosts the annual Mackinac Policy Conference put on by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce.
jpwbee Flickr

Day two of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual Mackinac Policy Conference is winding down but that certainly doesn't mean the politics at the event is slowing. In a special Wednesday edition of It's Just Politics, Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and I take a look at the political gossip floating across the Island.

Politics
5:55 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Michigan AG says investigation into McCotter petitions coming

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (far right) of Michigan.
Republican Conference Flickr

A formal investigation into possible election fraud by a congressional campaign will wait until after a state board meets next week.

The Board of State Canvassers is expected to formally reject petitions filed by Congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s re-election campaign. The petitions can then be turned over to the state Attorney General's office.

Attorney General Bill Schuette says the delay has not stopped his office from communicating with elections officials on the case.

"So it appears there is a problem, but we’ve not received anything officially yet from the Secretary of State’s office, and when we do, we’ll review it in a thorough fashion," said Schuette.

The Secretary of State’s office says it appears hundreds of signatures on McCotter’s nominating petitions were faked.

Schuette said it's a textbook example of how not to collect signatures.

"It's kind of elementary. When you run for class president, you gotta get the signatures to have the election, and it appears there’s a huge problem here," said Schuette.

McCotter has acknowledged problems with his petitions and says he plans to run as a write-in candidate on the Republican primary ballot in August.

Economy
4:57 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

Gov. Snyder urges Michigan businesspeople to hire veterans

Gov. Rick Snyder tours the Detroit auto show.
Rick Pluta Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder today asked  businesspeople to make a special effort to hire veterans returning from overseas duty. It’s the topic of one of the sessions this week at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Mackinac Island conference.  It’s attended by 1,500 of the state’s business and political leaders.

The governor says returning veterans face an unemployment rate of about 30 percent, something he calls “unacceptable.”

“So we need to help these people,” Snyder said. “So I ask you to do everything possible to make the session and to hire ‘em. That would be great. Thank you.”

The governor recently returned from a trip to the Middle East to visit Michigan National Guard units. He’s made job training and connecting veterans to jobs a part of his workforce development initiative.

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