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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Breaking
5:23 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Michigan's gay marriage ban struck down

April DeBoer, left, and Jayne Rowse sued the state to gain joint adoption rights to their children. The judge expanded the case to include the state's same-sex marriage ban.
DeBoer Rowse Adoption Legal Fund

Update 8:27 am:

Rick Pluta reports from Ingham County that the first marriage there was performed at 8:05 am.

7:21 am Saturday:

Now four counties – Washtenaw, Oakland, Muskegon and Ingham – plan to open this morning to issue marriage licenses. Come back for updates from our reporters in the field.

Update 11 pm Friday:

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It's Just Politics
2:41 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Could the Supreme Court stop lies in political ads?

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

The political campaign ad season is upon us. We’ve already seen the first trickle of ads here in Michigan, but we know the spigot is barely open at this point.

And, this brings us to an interesting court case out of Ohio that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in just over a month. At issue is whether a state can preemptively enforce a ban on a supposedly false and misleading political advertisement.

This started when the Republican independent committee the Susan B. Anthony List wanted to put up a billboard that accused an Ohio congressman of supporting taxpayer-funded abortions. The Congressman cried foul under an Ohio law that forbids knowingly or recklessly making false or misleading statements about candidates.

The billboard never went up after the congressman threatened to file a legal complaint. But the Susan B. Anthony List and some other groups challenged the law. That lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality and that was upheld by the U.S Sixth. Circuit Court of Appeals – of which Michigan is a part.

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Law
10:40 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

New rules for scrapyards head to governor for signature

The legislation would create end same-day cash payments of more than $50.
loopkid Flickr

New rules that are supposed to reduce the sale of stolen metal and car parts cleared are headed to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk. “Scrapping” is a big obstacle to Detroit’s redevelopment.

Critics say the measure has too many loopholes. Democratic State Sen. Coleman Young of Detroit says the new rules aren’t perfect, but they will help solve the problem.

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Politics & Government
10:34 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Bill to expand statewide district for 'failing' schools gets House OK

Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

The state House has approved by a one-vote majority Governor Rick Snyder’s plan to expand the agency that’s supposed to turn around some of Michigan’s most-troubled schools. The Education Achievement Authority is currently running 15 schools in Detroit.

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Law
8:45 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

Snyder: Treat e-cigarettes like tobacco

How an e-cigarette works
e-cigarettedirect.com

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants electronic cigarettes to be regulated in Michigan as tobacco products. E-cigarettes deliver a dose of nicotine to users in a mist. There is a bill in the Legislature to ban e-cigarette sales to minors, but would not tax them like cigarettes or subject them to other tobacco-related regulations.

The governor says it makes more sense to simply treat them as a tobacco product.

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It's Just Politics
3:07 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

How many wolf hunt questions can we squeeze onto the November ballot?

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It looks like a referendum on the controversial issue of wolf-hunting is headed to the November ballot – again. This will be the second hunting-related ballot question (and, possibly, not the last) voters will decide in a little less than eight months.

The Keep Michigan Wolves Protected Campaign turned in petition signatures to the state Bureau of Elections just yesterday. It takes 161,305 signatures, and we can reasonably expect the campaign has enough names. Because, after all, they’ve done this before.

Most recently, just last year, when Keep Michigan Wolves Protected filed enough signatures to suspend and challenge the first Michigan wolf hunting law adopted after the gray wolf was taken off the federal endangered species list. That is the first referendum challenge and it is already on the November ballot.

But the Legislature, as well as Gov. Rick Snyder, would not be thwarted. They adopted a second law to allow wolf hunting (among other things), and that is the target of this newest referendum campaign.

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Environment & Science
5:04 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Wolf hunt referendum petitions filed

endangeredspecieslawandpolicy.com

The campaign to repeal Michigan’s new wolf hunting law filed petitions today to put their challenge on the November ballot.

The Keep Michigan Wolves Protected Campaign says it has 225,000 signatures. That’s well over the 161,305 needed to qualify for the November ballot.

This would be the second hunting referendum on the ballot. The Legislature passed a new hunting law to sidestep an earlier petition drive and referendum.    

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Politics & Government
8:30 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Campaign to stop wolf hunt to turn in petitions

USFWS Midwest

The campaign to stop wolf hunts in Michigan says it has more than enough petition signatures to get a referendum on the November ballot. This would be the second ballot challenge to a wolf hunt because the state’s first wolf hunting law was blocked by a petition challenge that will also go before voters in November.

The Legislature got around that by passing a new law that’s the target of this ballot drive.

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Politics & Government
8:27 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Budget bill with roadwork money headed to Gov. Snyder

Jake Neher MPRN

The Legislature has approved a mid-year budget bill that includes $215 million for roads. It now goes to Governor Rick Snyder.

State Representative Joe Haveman chairs the House Appropriations Committee. He says a lot of the money will go to reimburse local governments for money they’ve already spent clearing streets and patching potholes.

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It's Just Politics
1:26 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

White men coveted by Dems and GOP this November

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

There was an interesting article this week in The New York Times with a strong focus on politics in Michigan. It dealt with a particular aspect of the Democratic Party’s trouble winning in off-presidential years: the coveted white male voter. Yes, working class, high school-educated, married white men are wanted.

Republicans, in fact, have relied on dominance among white males to win elections for many, many years now. And a lot has been made of the fact that right now Republicans are facing big troubles winning over minority voters - African American, Hispanic - as well as immigrants and single women, a weakness that Democrats have been able to use.

But Democrats have been, for many years, losing the white male vote. Remember the Reagan Democrats? White, blue collar, many of them union members, with a strong presence in southeast Michigan and, over time, they stopped being Reagan Democrats and just became Republicans.

Exit polls from The Washington Post show President Obama lost white voters by 20 points in 2012 to Mitt Romney, the largest losing margin among whites in 30 years. Now, of course, every election is different. We know not as many voters will cast a ballot in 2014 as 2012 because it’s a midyear election when the presidential race isn’t on top of the ballot which creates, in turn, less voter excitement.

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Law
8:58 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Effort underway to regulate e-cigarettes

Lauri Rantala Wikimedia Commons

There’s a movement in Lansing to regulate the sale of electronic cigarettes. The smokeless devices deliver a nicotine-laced mist that users inhale. The effort has been slowed by a disagreement. It’s about whether e-cigarettes should be regulated and taxed like tobacco, or separately.

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It's Just Politics
5:43 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

Michigan's same-sex marriage trial has political implications for state's GOP

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

We are one week, halfway through, the trial in federal court in Detroit centering on the challenge to Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The arguments are supposed to go on for another week, and then we’ll wait for the judge’s decision. But the case’s mere existence, the fact that it’s occurring, is having an effect on the political landscape in Michigan.

And, it should be noted that these hearings are not taking place within a vacuum. Just this week we saw two more gay marriage rulings. Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage was struck down and Kentucky was ordered to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

There is also another federal case underway here in Michigan that is challenging the state’s refusal to allow live-in partner benefits for public employees. It’s the mechanism that was created to allow same-sex couples to use their benefits to cover partners and children who would otherwise be denied coverage under Michigan’s marriage amendment, approved by voters in a statewide election 10 years ago.

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Education
5:38 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

School districts' budget picture appears to be brightening

State schools chief Mike Flanagan says schools need to be more proactive about looming financial problems.
MichigansChildren YouTube

The list of Michigan school districts that have budget deficits is shrinking, and more districts are digging out of debt. That was the report today from the state Department of Education to lawmakers.

There are 46 districts on the deficit list today, compared to 50 at the end of last year.

“I’m encouraged that we’re trending in the right direction as far as the number of schools heading into deficit and the number of schools heading out of deficit,” said State Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, who chairs the Senate K-12 budget subcommittee.      

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Politics & Government
5:40 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Potholes spur debate over road funding

Terrible roads have lawmakers asking for emergency money, and the governor renewing his call for long-term funding.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Lawmakers in the state House want to more than double the amount of emergency money for Michigan roads being ripped apart by nasty winter weather.

Last week, the state Senate approved $100 million to help fix potholes and plow roads. On Wednesday, a state House panel added another $115 million dollars for roads to the bill.  

“I think people are going to look at that and say that’s the way we’re giving back to the public – better roads as quickly as possible, a lot of it going to locals,” said Rep. Joe Haveman, R-Holland, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

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Law
4:58 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Michigan gay marriage goes on trial

Jayne Rowse (left) and April DeBoer hope to overturn Michigan's gay marriage ban.
DeBoer Rowse Adoption Legal Fund

Michigan’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage is now on trial before a federal judge.

Ahead of opening arguments today, demonstrators supporting and opposed to the gay marriage ban in front of the courthouse as April DeBoer and Jayne Rouse showed up with their attorneys. DeBoer says they initiated the lawsuit so she and her partner could adopt the children they’re already raising together.

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It's Just Politics
3:44 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Auto no-fault overhaul is GOP’s ‘Holy Grail’

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

A political controversy in Lansing that just won’t die is back: auto no-fault insurance. There is yet another Republican effort to muscle through an auto no-fault overhaul, this time being led by state House Speaker Jase Bolger.

There’s a lot in this proposal, released just yesterday, but one of the main things is a cap on the state’s currently unlimited medical benefits if you are injured in a crash. Under the Bolger plan, these benefits would top out at $10 million. Other parts of the proposal include limits on hospital fees and payments for in-home care, incentives to avoid litigation, and a guaranteed rate rollback in the first two years of coverage.

Essentially, there is something in this plan for all of the special interests that have a stake in the auto no-fault system – hospitals, insurance companies, trial lawyers – to dislike. But, Bolger says, bring it on.

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Law
10:43 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

GOP lawmakers try to revive no-fault overhaul

Lawmakers consider a $10 million cap on no-fault medical benefits.
Flickr

At the state Capitol, House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, says he still hopes to get an overhaul of Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance law through the Legislature this year.  He rolled out a new plan to end Michigan’s unlimited lifetime medical benefits coupled with the promise of a rate reduction.

“We do seek to ensure more drivers, make our auto insurance more affordable,” said Bolger at a news conference to announce the proposal.

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Law
10:32 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Milliken joins effort to win parole hearings for juvenile lifers

Former Michigan Gov. Bill Milliken is joining the call for parole hearing for juvenile lifers
Flickr user Still Burning Creative Commons

Former Michigan Gov. William Milliken says more than 350 prison inmates sentenced to life without parole as juveniles deserve a chance at freedom. Milliken – along with more than 100 law school deans and retired judges and prosecutors – filed a brief today with the state Supreme Court.

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Politics & Government
11:22 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Minimum wage campaign begins collecting names

The group wants to gradually raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017. It would also end the exemption that allows employers to pay less to workers who earn tips.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

The campaign to raise Michigan’s minimum wage will now begin collecting signatures.

A state panel gave the petition campaign the OK to go ahead. The Board of State Canvassers said the petition complies with the law, and now the campaign has until mid-May to collect 258,000 valid signatures. That would put the question to the Legislature. If lawmakers don’t adopt it, then it would go on the November ballot.

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Weather
11:08 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Gov. Snyder warns Michigan to get ready for new round of weather troubles

Snow, rain, and freezing rain are all part of the forecast for the Lower Peninsula, and the Upper Peninsula could be in for a blizzard.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

A new round of harsh winter weather is on the way. Snow, rain, and freezing rain are all part of the forecast for the Lower Peninsula, and the Upper Peninsula could be in for a blizzard.

Dealing with this year’s record and near-record cold and snow is already busting budgets as overtime, equipment, and supply costs are going higher than planned.

“This is a record winter in terms of cold, snow and we still have more to come,” said Gov. Rick Snyder.  

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