Rick Pluta | Michigan Radio

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

gretchen whitmer sitting at table

The Legislature’s Republican leaders Friday asked a Michigan Court of Claims judge to place restrictions on Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s power to declare a COVID-19 state of emergency.

They say Whitmer cannot continue to declare new states of emergency every 28 days without legislative approval.

Michigan State Capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

About 200 to 300 protesters gathered Thursday in front of the state Capitol to protest Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

Others stayed in their vehicles and beeped their horns as they drove through downtown Lansing.

Gretchen Whitmer at a podium

The state has ordered 31,000 public employees to take furlough days temporarily to help deal with the impact of COVID-19 on the state budget.

Stay-at-home orders and business layoffs have reduced economic activity, which means less tax revenue. And the state is required to keep its budget balanced.

Gretchen Whitmer
State of Michigan

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she’s concerned that “angry rhetoric” may turn into physical violence and turn back progress made to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan.

Michigan State Capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The commission that governs most public areas of the state Capitol says more study is needed on the question of guns in and around the building.

The Michigan State Capitol Commission voted six-to-one to delay a decision.

The question gained urgency following a Capitol protest where many people carried guns. Some yelled from the gallery at lawmakers voting on the state’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

head shot of Dana Nessel
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says the commission in charge of running the state Capitol is allowed to ban guns inside the building.

She gave that advice Friday to the Michigan State Capitol Commission, which controls public areas of the building.

Michigan Capitol Building
Matthileo / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Legislative Republicans announced Wednesday morning they have filed a lawsuit in the Court of Claims over Governor Gretchen Whitmer's decision to extend her emergency declaration despite the request being rejected by the Legislature last week.

Calling her unilateral actions unprecedented and unconstitutional, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) said they had no choice to ensure the Legislature has a say in the response to the new coronavirus pandemic.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The drug company Pfizer is producing an experimental version of a COVID-19 vaccine at its facility in Kalamazoo.

The company says that test version will be used in clinical trials that are already underway.

It’s one of several potential vaccines that have been approved for control group testing.

Abigail Censky / WKAR

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says protests at the state Capitol where demonstrators displayed Confederate flags and swastikas don’t represent most Michiganders. She defended the state and her efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 on national television.

Polls suggest there’s wide support for Whitmer’s handling of the health crisis in the face of protests at the Capitol where some people waved Confederate flags, displayed nooses and swastikas, and many did not follow social distancing rules.

protesters at the capitol
Rick Pluta / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued new executive orders Thursday night to extend Michigan’s COVID-19 state of emergency for another four weeks. That was after Republicans in the Legislature refused her request to extend the emergency through May 28th.

a portrait of speaker of the Michigan house lee chatfield
Michigan House Republicans

The Legislature is in session Thursday to vote on measures to restrain the governor’s emergency authority. The House has adopted a bill to reduce the number of days that can go by before Governor Gretchen Whitmer must request an extension of an emergency declaration. Her existing one expires later Thursday.

Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) says the Democratic governor has failed to balance economic concerns against the health threat.

Gretchen Whitmer at a podium

Governor Gretchen Whitmer wants to help store clerks and nursing home staff who are showing up for work during the COVID-19 crisis pay for college or job training.

Whitmer says her plan is modeled after the G.I. Bill that helped military veterans pursue higher education after World War II. The governor says she wants to use federal disaster funds to pay for the program.

Gretchen Whitmer
State of Michigan

The state Senate was back in session Tuesday with plans to return again Wednesday. The Republican-controlled chamber adopted resolutions asking Governor Gretchen Whitmer to reconsider aspects of her stay-at-home orders.

Mike Shirkey speaking

Republican leaders have called for the Legislature to return to the state Capitol Tuesday. There’s nothing official on the House or Senate calendars. But lawmakers could vote this week on extending Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 emergency declaration.

State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clark Lake) told a conference call Monday with business people he’d like to move faster to re-open businesses.

Gretchen Whitmer at a podium

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has issued a new COVID-19 executive order. This order sets rules to help manage the re-opening of some businesses and recreational activities.

The new order requires retail stores to set aside special shopping hours for people over 60, pregnant women, and people with health conditions at higher risk if infected by the virus. Employees must be issued face masks. Salad bars and self-serve food stations are not allowed. People must also still remain at least six feet apart.

Gretchen Whitmer at a podium

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed a new executive order to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. The emergency has been extended now to May 15 and it requires people to stay at home as much as possible. 

Mike Petrucci / Unsplash

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is expected to outline plans Friday to lift some travel restrictions and to allow some businesses to resume operating – even if it’s at just partial capacity.

Many Republicans in the Legislature may not like how Whitmer’s handled the crisis, but it appears most Michiganders approve of her actions so far. That’s according to a poll conducted by the Glengariff Group for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Gretchen whitmer at a microphone
Jake Neher / WDET

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she will release details soon on how to re-open parts of Michigan’s economy.

The governor says that should be done in a series of carefully monitored steps.

“But we have to be nimble enough to recognize where there’s been a growth of COVID-19, we pull back. Or, if there hasn’t been, where we take maybe the next cautious step forward.”

gretchen whitmer sitting at table
State of Michigan

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she was on a conference call Monday with other governors and Vice President Mike Pence.

The call was to help coordinate state and federal responses to the COVID-19 crisis.

downtown dundee, mi
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says May 1 is her target for starting to relax restrictions on movement and business activity during the coronavirus crisis. That’s when her current stay-at-home executive order expires. She said so Friday in a teleconference with a business group. But Whitmer says there are some conditions that will have to be met.

gretchen whitmer sitting at table
State of Michigan

Democratic and Republican governors from Michigan and six other states in the industrial Midwest say they will coordinate efforts to re-start economic activity as they battle the coronavirus pandemic.

gretchen whitmer sitting at table

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says states will decide when to lift restrictions on travel and gatherings – not President Donald Trump.

She says Michigan and other states are in the best position to decide how to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Whitmer is defending her stay-at-home order – and the fact that it’s among the strictest in the nation.

Protesters at the Michigan Capitol
Abigail Censky / WKAR

Several thousand cars surrounded the Michigan Capitol grounds for blocks as far as the eye could see Wednesday in a display so densely packed, one ambulance slowed to a crawl to get through. Some drivers laid on their horns, while some spilled out onto the sidewalks. At least 200 people left their cars and clustered at the front of the Capitol, not observing social distancing or wearing masks.  

gretchen whitmer sitting at table
State of Michigan

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s expanded stay-at-home order has passionate supporters and ardent critics.

It’s being challenged in federal court. And foes of the order are planning a rally Wednesday at the state Capitol.

Christin Hume / Unsplash

A petition campaign to expand Michigan’s civil rights law has gone digital as the coronavirus pandemic has shut down face-to-face signature gathering.

The Fair and Equal Michigan campaign wants to add protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The signature collection effort was halted by social-distancing orders to stop the spread of COVID-19.

michigan supreme court
Michigan Courts

Attorneys won’t be in the Michigan Supreme Court chambers this week as they argue cases. Instead, the state’s highest court will hear oral arguments online due to the COVID-19 crisis.

This is the first time the state’s highest court will use the internet to hear appeals and question attorneys. All sides have to agree for cases to be argued online, and litigants will still have to file written briefs with the court.


Governor Gretchen Whitmer is defending her expanded stay-at-home order as necessary to protect public health.

And she says maintaining strict social distancing rules now will help prevent a resurgence of the virus later.

She says that would help ensure a post-pandemic economic recovery remains on track.

closed sign in business window
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is extending her statewide "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order through April 30. The order also enacts stricter social distancing requirements in stores and workplaces.

The original order was set to expire April 13, but the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to climb in Michigan.

ICE agents
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

The ACLU has filed two federal lawsuits on behalf of immigrants who are medically vulnerable and seeking release from detention.

The lawsuits say the detainees are particularly at risk of contracting COVID-19 and suffering complications if they get sick.

Erik Mclean / Unsplash

State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) has formed a bipartisan workgroup with the job of determining when it might be safe for some businesses shut down by the coronavirus crisis to re-open.

“We believe there’s evidence to support, actually, frankly, real-life examples to support that businesses can operate with the discipline, robustness and safety as you can at home.”