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.

Pages

Politics & Government
10:14 am
Mon June 17, 2013

Medicaid expansion tops to-do list before Legislature’s summer break

Debate in the Michigan Senate turned to school bullying.
user cedarbenddrive Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration is working to wrap up a deal with the Legislature this week to extend Medicaid coverage to thousands more low-income families in Michigan. Republicans remain divided on the proposal.

It took a bipartisan vote of Republicans and Democrats to get the expansion through the state House last week and it will take a similar coalition to get the bill approved this week by the state Senate.

Read more
Law
4:06 pm
Fri June 14, 2013

Michigan AG says state law protects DIA assets from bankruptcy sale

The Detroit Institute of Arts
Maia C/Flickr

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has released a legal opinion that says the collection held by the Detroit Institute of Arts cannot be sold if the city goes into bankruptcy.

The opinion was issued in response to a request by Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville.

The opinion says the assets owned by the Detroit Institute of Art are held in a public trust for the people of Michigan, and cannot be used to pay off the city's debts. Schuette says in the opinion, "In Michigan, we not only appreciate our cultural treasures, we guard them zealously."

Detroit has $15.6 billion dollars in long-term liabilities, and emergency manager Kevyn Orr will need to take some drastic measures to pay those debts.

Kevyn Orr -- who is a bankruptcy attorney and turnaround expert -- is in the middle of negotiating a debt reduction plan with the city's creditors. He has said there are no guarantees the DIA's assets would be off the table in the event of a bankruptcy.

It's Just Politics
2:22 pm
Fri June 14, 2013

Campaign trails wait as candidates get social

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

This week on It's Just Politics, it's all about the art of the campaign announcement.

This morning Congressman Mike Rogers surprised no one when he told the world, or, at least, the state of Michigan, that he will not be a candidate to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy created by the retirement of Carl Levin in 2014. Rogers says he has too much on his plate as the chair of the House Intelligence Committee. And, there’s truth to that: Syria, Iran, and North Korea, not to mention the renewed scrutiny over how the U.S. gathers intelligence.  A very competitive U.S. doesn’t fit well with those big responsibilities.

We should point out Mike Rogers could not do that job if he didn’t live in the safely Republican 8th Congressional District, nicely drawn for him courtesy of the Michigan Legislature’s GOP majorities. Rogers hasn’t had a tough race since his first congressional race in 2000. That race against Democrat Dianne Byrum a dozen years ago was one of the closest in the country. But that’s not a problem for Rogers anymore. He probably has this seat for as long as he wants it.

Rogers let us know his plans via e-mail, which is how it’s done these days. Earlier this month, Republican Terri Lynn Land announced her U.S. Senate plans (she’s in) on Twitter. And, former-Michigan Congressman Mark Schauer did the same thing; filed his papers to run for Governor as a Democrat and, then, Tweeted it.

Read more
Politics & Government
5:11 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

Snyder wants to eliminate early childhood program backlog in next budget

Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder signed a nearly $50 billion state budget today for the coming fiscal year.

It puts a large deposit into the state's "rainy day" savings account, and boosts funding for schools and early childhood programs. The Governor says a $65 million appropriation will cut in half the waiting list for kids from low-income families to get into Great Start.

"A major jump that will give the opportunity for hopefully 16,000 additional kids to be part of Great Start. I hope we're back here next year talking about another $65 million so we can make that whole waiting list go away," said Snyder.

The budget also includes more money for Medicaid dental care for kids.

The governor says there is still some unfinished business with the budget -- namely, a federally funded expansion of the Medicaid program and raising 1.2 billion dollars for roads.

Offbeat
2:02 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

Michigan holds the nation's fudge capital - Mackinac Island

rawmustard Flickr

This coming Sunday isn’t just Father's Day -- it is also National Fudge Day.

By most accounts, the first batch of fudge was concocted in Baltimore in the 1880s. By the turn of the century, fudge-making arrived on Mackinac Island in northern Michigan, which today has a legitimate claim as the modern day fudge capital.

Tourists pile off ferries and onto Mackinac Island by the thousands every day during the summer. For many, one of the first stops when they arrive or the last stop before they board a ferry back home, is one of the island’s 15 or so fudge shops. 

Island-wide, the favorite is plain, unadulterated chocolate fudge.

Read more
Politics & Government
11:49 am
Thu June 13, 2013

Judge orders Snyder administration to produce records re: EM hire

Staff Michigan Municipal League

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration intends to appeal a judge’s order to reveal the names of all the candidates he considered as potential emergency managers for Detroit.

A lawsuit claims the hiring process violated the state’s open meetings law.

The judge ordered the state to turn over e-mails and other records related to the search that culminated in hiring Kevyn Orr to steer Detroit out of a financial crisis. The lawsuit claims the decision was made well before a state board publicly interviewed and voted to hire Orr.

Read more
It's Just Politics
2:09 pm
Fri June 7, 2013

‘Gen Y’ Republican lawmaker takes up gay rights fight in Lansing

"It's Just Politics" with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

"It's Just Politics" with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

This week on "It’s Just Politics," it’s all about ch-ch-changes (cue your best David Bowie impersonation here). Changes are afoot vis-a-vis lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Michigan.

Democrats in the Legislature made news this week by introducing a package of bills to reverse Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and to recognize same-sex marriages that are legal in other states. All of this is occurring, of course, as we wait for the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on gay marriage, due sometime this month. There is also a federal case in Michigan that could be affected by the decision.

The big question is: How significant is this new legislation when all of the sponsors are Democrats? We all know Republicans run the show in Lansing; controlling the state House, state Senate and the Governor’s office. And the Republican leadership has shown no signs of wanting to make this issue a priority. When Gov. Snyder is asked about it, he tends to tap dance around the issue, won’t say "no," won’t say "yes." “I’m staying focused on jobs and kids and seniors at this point,” the governor said this week.

Read more
Politics & Government
5:46 pm
Wed June 5, 2013

$4 million to help Wayne County deal with backlog in testing rape kits

Gov. Rick Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette, and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy held a news conference to announce $4 million to help reduce a backlog in processing thousands of rape kits. Schuette holds a rape kit box.
Rick Pluta MPRN

A $4 million donation from the state could help cut in half a backlog of untested rape kits in Detroit.

There are eight or nine thousand rape kits remaining of those that were left behind and untested when the city of Detroit police lab closed three years ago.

Some of the cases are 25 years old.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says it’s unacceptable that some of these crimes have gone decades without being solved.

“Twice, women were violated – once by the rape, and then second, that justice was put in a box, put on a shelf,” said Schuette.

The funds will come from money won in lawsuits by the state.

Tests on a few hundred kits have already turned up suspects living all across Michigan and half a dozen other states.

Read more
Environment & Science
6:22 am
Sun June 2, 2013

Great Lakes governors closer to agreement on Asian carp

A Bighead carp caught in Lake Calumet, near Chicago, in 2010
Illinois Dept of Natural Resources

The Great Lakes governors are meeting this weekend on Mackinac Island.

There may have been a small breakthrough on a plan to deal with the threat of Asian carp spreading into the lakes.

There’s been some tension among the Great Lakes states over what to about Asian carp spreading from the Mississippi River system to Lake Michigan.

The two join at a shipping canal in Chicago. The Great Lakes Council of Governors agreed to adopt a common strategy to fight the spread of invasive species.

Read more
It's Just Politics
4:14 pm
Sat June 1, 2013

Governor Snyder encounters choppy (political) waters on Mackinac Island

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

This week we are taping It's Just Politics at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Policy Conference on Mackinac Island. This is an annual statewide event where business people and politicians come to plot the future of Michigan. Big shots. Serious stuff. Except, of course, for the iced-vodka luge.

Really this is Rick Snyder’s party. Most of the people that attend the conference are his people: Moderate, but right-of-center business folks, impressed by cutting taxes and balanced budgets.

Two years ago at this conference, the Governor had only been in office for six months and, in his words, “working in dog years."  One Tough Nerd came to the conference with a state budget done in record time; nothing like the budget gridlock we saw in a couple showdowns in the Granholm years (2007 and 2009 were doozies). Also, in that six months, Snyder had gotten a couple big wins on tax policy and it sure seemed like he was simpatico with the Legislature’s Republican majority.

Basically, the 2011 Mackinac Policy Conference was Rick Snyder’s jam.

Read more
Politics & Government
5:06 pm
Wed May 29, 2013

Governor Jeb Bush urges action on education

Jeb Bush
NPR.org

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush says Michigan should pursue more charter schools and online learning as part of the state’s efforts to improve education.

He also asked state lawmakers to stick with common national standards to measure student performance.

The Michigan Legislature’s Republican majorities just approved a school aid budget that forbid spending to enact the Common Core standards developed by the nation’s governors. Some conservatives say the standards hand over Michigan’s education policy to a national consortium.

Read more
Politics & Government
5:20 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Schauer to run for Michigan Governor, 2014 battle lines coming into focus

Mark Schauer filed papers today to run for Governor of Michigan
U.S. Congress

The field seems cleared for two sons of Battle Creek to face each other in the 2014 race for Michigan governor.

Former Congressman Mark Schauer filed papers today to run as a Democrat.

Other Democrats explored the possibility and dropped back in favor of Schauer, whose political career spans from the Battle Creek City Commission, to the state Legislature and Congress.

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson says the early start – the 2014 elections are 17 months away – will help Schauer challenge Republican Governor Rick Snyder.

Read more
Politics & Government
11:06 am
Mon May 27, 2013

Ex-justice Hathaway to be sentenced Tuesday

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway
Credit michigan.gov

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway finds out tomorrow whether she’s headed to prison for bank fraud.

Hathaway pleaded guilty in federal court to concealing a vacation home in Florida, and other assets, to engineer the short sale of a lakefront property in Grosse Pointe Park.

She also resigned the state Supreme Court seat she won in the 2008 election. 

Read more
It's Just Politics
3:45 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Will troubles in DC rain on Michigan's political parade?

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

This week on "It’s Just Politics," we’re talking scandals, or at least, perceived scandals. In D.C., at the White House, the Obama administration is dealing with the Benghazi emails, the IRS alleged targeting of certain Tea Party groups and the Department of Justice investigating the phone records of journalists.

Scandals: They have the ability to alter the political landscape. Watergate, a national scandal so profound that all subsequent national scandals of any note get “-gate” attached to them.

Back in 1993, here in Michigan, there was the House Fiscal Agency scandal. Some agency employees were caught using what was kind of a petty cash account for all kinds of things that had nothing to do with their jobs. The long-time chairman of the House Appropriations Committee lost his job and people went to prison. It gave Republicans a bump in the next election; winning control of the state House after two years of evenly shared power with the Democrats.

Sufficient to say, scandals can change elections. We are in an era where elections are nationalized. So here we are, going into a presidential mid-term race in 2014 and, as we've talked about before on "It’s Just Politics," mid-term elections are seldom kind to the party in the White House. Here in Michigan, that puts Democrats on defense as they’re hoping to notch some major victories come November 2014.

Democrats are being given the edge in keeping the U.S. Senate seat that Carl Levin is vacating. And in the gubernatorial race, former Democratic Congressmen Mark Schauer, who's hasn't officially announced he’s in the race yet, is running even with Governor Snyder, according to some very early polling from EPIC MRA.

Read more
Politics & Government
3:10 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Changes in store for no-fault insurance coverage?

The Michigan capitol
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court has set some new limits on expenses that can be claimed under auto no-fault insurance coverage by people injured in car crashes. 

Kenneth Admire used handicapped-accessible vans since a 1987 auto accident. Three times before, his insurance company paid the entire cost of the modified vehicles.

This last time, though, the company said it would pay for the modifications, but Admire has to buy the van.

Read more

It's Just Politics

Politics can be messy. Politics can be confusing. But, that certainly doesn't mean politics can't be a total thrilling joy-ride. Join It's Just Politics hosts Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta every Friday afternoon for a fast-paced spin around Michigan politics.

Want to know what's really going on inside the state Capitol building? Or, why your lawmaker really voted the way they did? They've got the answers... and much more.

It's Just Politics – every Friday afternoon at 1:35 pm on Michigan Radio.

Politics & Government
11:48 am
Wed May 22, 2013

Petition drive will seek to ban automatic abortion coverage in Michigan

Rick Pluta Michigan Public Radio

A state elections board has given the go-ahead to a petition drive that would enact a restriction on abortions.

The initiative would ban abortion coverage as a part of basic insurance policies.

Instead, customers and businesses that offer employee coverage would have to buy a separate rider for insurance coverage.

The effort seeks to enact a requirement that was vetoed by Governor Rick Snyder.

If the drive succeeds, the Legislature could adopt the law without the threat of a veto.

Read more
Politics & Government
9:57 am
Wed May 22, 2013

Michigan leaders decide where to spend budget windfall

Talking money at the State Capitol in Lansing.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

There’s a tentative budget deal between Governor Rick Snyder and the Legislature’s Republican leaders.

It puts more money into savings, schools, and roads. But, it also delays decisions on some of the governor’s priorities.

A budget windfall will allow the state to sock away more in savings, provide a boost to schools, and come up with enough money to qualify for federal matching funds to pay for some road repairs.

But House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) says it doesn’t solve the problem of how to come up with an additional $1.2 billion for roads.

“This provides a solid down payment on our transportation needs. However, that’s all it is. It’s not a full solution. This is a down payment,” said Bolger.

Road funding is especially difficult with a Legislature that’s been opposed to higher gas taxes and registration fees.

There’s also no arrangement to take federal money to expand Medicaid eligibility.

Bolger says those discussions are ongoing.

“We’re going to continue our conservative budget based on existing sources,” he said. “We’re not going to plan for dollars or answers that aren’t there yet. So, Medicaid has not been answered.” 

The governor says Medicaid expansion under the federal healthcare law will save Michigan taxpayers money, but Republicans in the Legislature are not on board.  

Bolger says the governor and the Legislature are on track to get the new budget wrapped up by their deadline of June 1.

It's Just Politics
2:11 pm
Fri May 17, 2013

Election 2014: The running season is here

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

This week’s It’s Just Politics deserves a little running music (we’re thinking the theme to Chariots of Fire would fit well) because we’re looking at who’s in, who’s out, who’s thinking of getting in and who’s thinking about who’s thinking about getting in when it comes to Election 2014.

This week Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced he’s out; won’t seek another term as Mayor. He delivered this lengthy apologia that seemed about as long as the entire Bing administration to the people who had to sit through it before he made the big announcement. In journalism, we call that burying the lead. There was some question as to whether Mayor Bing could actually win reelection, but clearly this breaks open that race. Twenty two people running, the biggest slate in almost two decades.

The candidates getting the most attention are Mike Duggan, former Detroit Medical Center CEO and Wayne County problem-solver, and Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon. The other candidates are in a race right now to make themselves the top alternative should one or both of them falter. Kind of like what we saw last year in the Republican presidential primary as it seemed like a different candidate every month became the alternative to Mitt Romney.

So, we have this big race for Detroit mayor, while the filing deadline for Michigan’s big statewide races – governor and U.S. senator – is still a year away. We’re at that weird stage of the gubernatorial race. Let’s start with Rick Snyder, who says he’s not ready to announce that he’s running but, really, he’s running. “I’m not formally announcing anything. I’m honored to be governor. And I’ve got a lot of things I’d like to do over the next few years,” Snyder said this week.

Read more
Education
4:46 pm
Mon May 13, 2013

Buena Vista school district to use federal funds for 'summer camps'

Student artwork given to Buena Vista kindergarten teacher Marci Karwat.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

The Buena Vista school district will try to run summer camps to help students affected by the sudden cancelation of classes for the balance of the school year.

That's one of the decisions today from a meeting of state and local education officials.

The shut-down will not stop eligible seniors from graduating, or other students from advancing to the next grade. The district in Saginaw County will try to run four- to six-week camps over the summer break to help students make up what they missed, and prepare for the coming school year.

The money for those camps will not come from the state, but from federal funds.

The Buena Vista district abruptly ceased operations earlier this month. That was after the state cut off aid payments because of debts owed by the district.

Pages