Rick Pluta | Michigan Radio
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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

Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) released a list of line-item vetoes and asked a state board to approve funding shifts as the stage is set for a new round of budget bargaining with GOP leaders.
Rick Pluta / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer used her executive powers to cut funding and move money to better reflect her priorities in the new state budget. 

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

All state employees are expected to show up for work Tuesday. That’s because Governor Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign budget bills Monday and avert a partial shutdown of state government at midnight.

The Democratic governor pressed the Legislature’s GOP majorities to increase the gas tax and put more money toward roads and schools. Republicans said no and sent her budget bills last week to sign or veto by Monday. The standoff led the Whitmer administration to notify state employees that layoffs could be on the way.

ballot
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced on Monday that they have filed six felony charges against Southfield City Clerk Sherikia Hawkins.

Picture of the Lansing capitol building
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Legislature has sent a K-12 schools budget to Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The bill was adopted with the support of Republicans and Democrats. But the budget has a lot less money then what the governor’s’ recommended for special education and at-risk students.

“While the school aid budget passed by the Legislature includes some additional funding, it is still nowhere near what the governor proposed in her executive budget, and far short of what our children deserve,” the governor’s press secretary, Tiffany Brown, said in a statement.

Vaping accesories
Cheyna Roth / Michigan Radio

Michigan retailers have two weeks to clear their shelves of flavored, nicotine-laced vaping products. The state health department issued new rules Wednesday that ban the sale of those products. The ban also applies to online retailers who ship vaping products to Michigan customers.

Bob Wheaton is with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. He says the rule follows a formal declaration that vaping is a “public health emergency.”

Michigan State Capitol Building
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The slow roll toward a partial state government shutdown continues in Lansing. Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Republican leaders aren’t talking, and each side says the other side is at fault.

Republicans say they won’t vote for the governor’s proposed gas tax increase. And they promise to start sending her budget bills this week with or without a deal.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey says he’s ready to negotiate until the last moment, but it’s up to Governor Whitmer to call the meeting.

layoff
Adobe Stock

The state has notified thousands of employees they could soon get layoff notices, unless Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Legislature’s Republican leaders resolve a budget standoff.

In a turn-around from earlier this week, Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she’s ready to veto budget bills that don’t raise new money for roads. Republicans in the Legislature have teed up budgets to be adopted and sent to Whitmer’s desk as soon as next week.

That’s after talks between the Democratic governor and GOP leaders broke down this week. The rhetoric tossed between the Democratic governor and Republican leaders has grown increasingly tense.

Whitmer says, “They gotta do what they gotta do. Then I’m gonna do what I gotta do.”

potholes on a road filled with muddy water
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Republican leaders say Governor Gretchen Whitmer will have to wait for new money for roads. They say she can expect budget bills to start heading her way next week – and the bargaining for new road money can start later.

Tiffany Brown is the governor’s press secretary. She says Republicans have had all year to work on the budget. She says the plans proposed so far by GOP leaders are non-starters.

State Rep. Larry Inman talking to reporters
Rick Pluta / Michigan Radio

State Representative Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg) returned Tuesday to the state Capitol in Lansing. This is the first time he’s attended a House session since his colleagues adopted a formal request for his resignation as he faces federal bribery and extortion charges. It’s alleged he tried to trade votes for campaign donations.

Rep. Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg)
Michigan House of Representatives

State Representative Larry Inman’s (R-Williamsburg) defense appears to be that the charges lodged against him by federal prosecutors are so vague and expansive that they would shut down fundraising, campaigning, and decision-making if he is convicted.

brown and gold gavel
Bill Oxford / Unsplash

An attorney says she should not have to join the State Bar of Michigan in order to practice law. And she has filed a lawsuit to strike down the requirement.

Lucille Taylor is a lawyer with a long history in state Republican politics.

Agustin Arbulu
Michigan Civil Rights Commission

The embattled director of the Michigan Civil Rights Department has taken a leave of absence. That’s after Agustin Arbulu resisted calls for him to resign amid findings of misconduct and the Michigan Civil Rights Commission refused to fire him.

A detail Michigan congressional district maps drawn in 2011.
Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson are asking a federal judge to toss a challenge to the state’s new redistricting law.

They say restrictions on who can serve on the new redistricting commission are legal.

Gretchen Whitmer
gretchenwhitmer.com

Potter Elementary School has no air conditioning. Signs taped to water fountains warn students not to use them because the water has not been tested for lead.

After touring the Flint school on Monday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer says there’s not enough money for schools, just like there’s not enough money for roads. And she says the solution is to ask taxpayers for more revenue. She says bonding and borrowing are out of the question – especially as the economy shows signs of softening.

Rep.Rashida Tlaib speaking in front of a group of people
Malak Silmi / Michigan Radio

Updated 9:28 a.m., August 16, 2019:

In a statement, Michigan Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) announced she would no longer be traveling to Palestine and Israel. 

gun
Adobe Stock

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she would support a “red flag” law to allow law enforcement to seize firearms from someone who is deemed a risk.

Gretchen Whitmer wearing yellow vest while overseeing road work
Rick Pluta / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has again called on Republican leaders to reconvene the Legislature to wrap up work on a new state budget and a plan to fix the roads.

But GOP leaders say there’s no reason to yet.

man wearing a "police ice" vest
ICE.gov

The body of a 41-year-old Iraqi-born man who died in Baghdad after being deported from the U.S. in June will be returned to Michigan for burial. He will be buried alongside his mother.

Prison fence barbed wire
Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

The state of Michigan is offering grants to local governments to help reduce racial disparities in their juvenile justice systems.

To qualify, one thing local governments and court systems will have to do is acknowledge there’s a problem.

“First of all, they’ve got to demonstrate that they have racial and ethnic disparities, that they exist in their jurisdiction,” says Lynn Sutfin, with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “And then they need to propose activities that they think will address those disparities.”

Agustin Arbulu
Michigan Civil Rights Commission

Governor Gretchen Whitmer wants to know why state civil rights director Agustin Arbulu is still leading the department. That’s after an inquiry determined Arbulu created a hostile work environment with remarks he made about women and about a gay employee.

In a letter to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, Governor Whitmer demanded an explanation why Agustin Arbulu remains in charge of the civil rights department.

The Democratic debates took place at Detroit's Fox Theatre where candidates focused on manufacturing, jobs, and clean water.
Malak Silmi / Michigan Radio

Ten Democrats showcased their plans to create jobs and ensure clean water as part of a televised presidential debate Wednesday night in Detroit.

This was the second group of hopefuls to appear in the CNN-sponsored Democratic debates in Detroit’s Fox Theatre.

trump supporters hold signs
Zoe Clark / Michigan Radio

People packed the city blocks surrounding Detroit’s Fox Theatre Tuesday night to greet the opening of two nights of debates among the crowded field of Democrats running for president. The crowd included people demonstrating about climate change and income inequality. Also, supporters of the candidates came out. Many of the people chanted slogans and held signs to support a favorite candidate.

Gretchen Whitmer
Whitmer for Governor

Twenty Democratic presidential candidates are about to converge on Michigan for two nights of debates in Detroit.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer will be on hand to greet the candidates. Whitmer says she’s already spoken with most of them, and she says her advice is, don’t take the industrial Midwest or the state of Michigan for granted in the primary or next year’s general election.

a map of Michigan's 13th Congressional district
Federal Election Commission

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says she’s looking to the Legislature to provide enough money to ensure the new state redistricting commission can do its job.

The amendment approved by voters last November provides some money, but Benson says she wants money to recruit commission members from all walks of life.

marijuana joint
Flickr

A state lawmaker has proposed clearing the criminal records of people convicted of possessing or using marijuana. It would apply to misdemeanor convictions prior to voter approval of a ballot question legalizing recreational marijuana in Michigan.

Adobe Stock

The ACLU of Michigan is asking a federal judge to toss out a lawsuit filed by parents against the Williamston Community School Board.

The lawsuit claims a board policy that’s supposed to protect LGBTQ students from harassment is unfair to their children – and that it violates their First Amendment rights.

Jay Kaplan is an ACLU attorney. He says the policy protects the rights of LGBTQ students.

Former MSU President Lou Anna Simon
File photo / MSU

A detective looking into claims that former Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon lied to police about former MSU sports doctor Larry Nassar acknowledged there were key questions that should have been asked during the investigation that weren’t.

Simon sat implacably at the defense table during the questioning. She is trying to avoid going to trial on two felony and two misdemeanor charges that she lied to investigators about what she knew about sexual abuse of young women and girls by Nassar.

Flickr user Joe Gratz / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Michigan Supreme Court says prosecutors in criminal cases cannot rely on experts to testify on how often children typically lie or tell the truth about sex abuse. The court says juries were swayed by opinions, not the facts, in two individual cases.

The realities of a world economy aren't just being felt at big companies like General Motors or Ford. Small businesses are feeling the strain of foreign competition.
earl53 / Morguefile

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says Michigan has encouraged students to seek four-year college degrees at the expense of encouraging careers in skilled trades.

She says that’s cost the state’s economy, employers, and workers.

Whitmer toured a Detroit community college on Monday to make her point. She says less than half of high school graduates in Michigan seek advanced schooling, and she says that means many lost opportunities, even during good economic times.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do. This is a cultural thing that we’ve got to overcome,” she says.

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