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

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.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a controversial elections bill, but has called for a fix to clear up some confusion in the new law.

The new law puts limits on local officials’ ability to campaign for millages and other local ballot questions in the two months before an election. Local officials say it’s basically an effort to silence them.

  

People voting.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law that eliminates the choice of voting a straight-party ballot with a single mark on Election Day, despite the fact that the option has been upheld twice by voters.

However, voters will not have the opportunity to challenge the new law on the ballot because Republican lawmakers tucked into it a $5 million spending provision that makes it immune to a referendum.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A surcharge paid by Michigan utility customers for electricity generated by wind and solar energy is disappearing.

With the new year, DTE Energy Customers will no longer pay a 43-cent monthly fee for renewable energy. The state’s largest utility, Consumers Energy, dropped the fee last year.

http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2015/msu-supply-chain-ranked-first-in-the-nation/

Michigan State University must release the names of 300 student-athletes listed in police reports as suspects in criminal investigations. That’s under a Michigan Supreme Court order issued today.

ESPN requested the records under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act for a series on whether college-athletes suspected of crimes get special treatment.

MSU provided campus police reports, but redacted the names of student-athletes named as suspects.

MSU said, unless they’re actually charged, that’s an unwarranted invasion of privacy.

"This country needs to learn how to pay its bills, protect its borders [and] invite in legal immigrants." Judi Schwalbach said.
flickr user Gage Skidmore / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Donald Trump used a visit to west Michigan to take aim at Ford Motor Company’s plans to expand production in Mexico. He says, if elected President, he would threaten manufacturers with big tariffs on imports to discourage them from building plants across the border and overseas.

“If you build that plant in Mexico, I’m going to charge you 35 percent on every car, truck part that you send into our country,” he said. “Every single one.”

Trump spoke to a crowd of several thousand. He says the country’s leaders are weak, and he would engage in tough negotiations with car companies to build new plants in the US and Michigan.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Updated 5:30 p.m. 

Flint has a new ally in its push for federal funds to fix the city’s water problems.

Michigan’s legislative black caucus is urging Gov. Rick Snyder to issue a state of emergency to address the continuing health concerns caused by the dangerous lead levels in Flint’s water.

lockers lining a school hallway
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder says he’s slowing down his plans to fix Detroit’s schools in order to get the process moving. In the face of resistance from Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature, the governor says he wants to break up the work, focusing first on retiring the district’s massive debt.

UNHCR / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Governor Rick Snyder says he’s closer to lifting the “pause” on his efforts to bring more refugees from Syria and the Middle East to Michigan.

The federally-created Council of Governors has a meeting scheduled for tomorrow. This is the group of 10 governors (always five Republicans and five Democrats) that gives the federal government the states’ perspectives on national security issues.

This is also the group that Governor Snyder said he wanted to conduct a review of federal security policies after the self-proclaimed most pro-immigration governor called for a “pause” in resettling refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries after last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Egypt.

Troy Holden / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Michigan Supreme Court has let stand an amendment to the Grand Rapids city charter that decriminalizes marijuana.

The amendment was approved by Grand Rapids voters in 2012. It makes possession of or sharing marijuana a civil infraction punishable by fines ranging from $25 to $100 with no jail time.

It also makes marijuana cases a low police priority, and forbids city law enforcement officials from referring marijuana cases to the Kent County prosecutor’s office.

Michigan Supreme Court
Michigan Supreme Court / court.mi.gov

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether courts may step into resolve a dispute between dueling factions of a Baptist congregation without violating the separation of church and state.

The court agreed today to decide whether it will take the case or allow a lower court decision to stand.

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

A state House committee has adopted a bill to eliminate the straight ticket voting option on election ballots. And the committee linked the measure’s future to a bill to make it easier to vote absentee.

Republicans say it’s a compromise that will require voters to educate themselves about candidates.

There are just two more weeks before the Legislature’s done for the year and House and Senate Republicans are spending them setting things up for election season 2016.

There’s a very partisan debate underway at the state Capitol about eliminating the straight-ticket voting option on the ballot. Straight-ticket voting is what allows voters to make just one mark on the ballot to cast all their votes for candidates of one party or the other.

rock478 / morgueFile

A deaf high school wrestler is suing the Michigan High School Athletic Association for the right to have a sign language interpreter alongside the mat during tournaments.

Ellis Kempf, 18, is the wrestling squad captain at Royal Oak High School. He’s been deaf since the age of two due to meningitis, and can’t wear his hearing aids during matches. Kempf used a sign language interpreter alongside the mat until the Michigan High School Athletic Association said that’s not allowed.

Alex Cheek / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

There’s a collection of tax breaks rapidly moving through the Legislature to lure a center that stores massive amounts of data. Supporters say the incentives would help build a new industry in the state.

  

The Las Vegas-based company Switch says without the tax breaks – and they must be approved by the end of the year – it will take its server farm to another state that will offer the incentives.

People moving from Syria into Turkey.
European Commission DG ECHO

Governor Rick Snyder says the federally created, bipartisan Council of Governors is the right forum to answer concerns about vetting refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East.

Gov. Rick Snyder in a file photo.
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Governor Rick Snyder is calling for more discussions between state and federal officials regarding security surrounding the relocation of refugees from the Middle East in the US.

The governor sent a letter on Tuesday to Secretary of State John Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. The governor says he asked the topic to be added to a meeting later this month of the bipartisan Council of Governors. The council was created under federal law to advise the federal government on security and homeland defense matters.

As we head into the final month of 2015, campaigns in Michigan are already ramping up for Election 2016.

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

The Michigan Court of Appeals says having a medical marijuana card does not give someone the right to smoke pot in a parked car in a public place.

Medical marijuana cardholder Robert Carlton was busted and charged with a misdemeanor for smoking pot in the parking lot of a casino in Mount Pleasant. Michigan’s medical marijuana law specifically bans smoking pot in public places.

UNHCR / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Federal officials say they’re answering the concerns of governors like Michigan’s Rick Snyder about how they vet refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries.

Lawmakers are continuing their autumn recess, but they’ll soon be back in Lansing to focus on Governor Rick Snyder’s plan for Detroit schools.

UNHCR / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Governor Rick Snyder was the first governor in the nation to speak out on refugees following last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut. And he may have come to regret it as he tries to clarify his position vis a vis what a lot of the nation’s other Republican governors are saying about refugees and immigration.

Inside the doctor's office.
Jennifer Morrow / Flickr

Patient advocates, doctors, and hospital-affiliated insurance companies are asking the state to reconsider a decision to reduce the number of HMOs that are part the Medicaid program that serves low-income families.

“This is a disruption of the most-vulnerable population that you can disrupt,” said James Connelly, CEO of the Health Alliance Plan of Michigan. He says his customers are low-income African-Americans and immigrants from the Middle East who are not fluent in English. 

A big economic development project in Grand Rapids seems to have Republican lawmakers rethinking their opposition to industry-specific tax breaks.

Gov. Snyder is taking heat regarding decisions made by his Emergency Managers that lead to the Flint water crisis
Gov. Rick Snyder / screengrab

A state elections board has rejected a petition seeking to recall Governor Rick Snyder over the Flint water crisis.

The bipartisan Board of State Canvassers says the petition is premature since there are still inquiries underway into what happened in Flint, and the allegations are unproven. Democrats and Republicans on the board voted to reject the petition, which says Snyder is “culpable” for the contamination.

Jeb Bush
Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush says a slimmed-down tax code and fewer environmental regulations would boost the economies of manufacturing states – and promises to adopt that sort of “pro-growth” strategy should make the Republican ticket attractive to voters in industrial states like Michigan and Pennsylvania come November of 2016.

“The only way to grow income for the middle class and lift people out of poverty is to grow the economy, and I know how to do it,” he told a crowd gathered at the Kent County Republican headquarters in Grand Rapids.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Secretary of State has released the initial list of Republican and Democratic candidates who will appear on the March 8 presidential primary ballot.

The Republicans:

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder has signed legislation that will increase fuel taxes and registration fees and re-prioritize spending to raise more than $1 billion to fix roads.

These 14 states were in the bottom of the rankings. Michigan was ranked the worst.
Center for Public Integrity

Fiftieth out of fifty states.

That's where Michigan ranks in a report released today by the Center for Public Integrity.

The last time we wrote about this, Michigan ranked 43rd out of 50. 

Pages