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

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.”

Gretchen whitmer at a microphone
Jake Neher / WDET

The Legislature adopted a resolution Tuesday extending Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency authority to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

Lawmakers were called into the House and the Senate in small groups to check in before the resolution was adopted.

The resolution extends the governor’s emergency powers until April 30th. The governor had requested a longer extension of 70 days.

gretchen whitmer sitting at table
State of Michigan

The Legislature will meet Tuesday to vote on resolutions to extend Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers to address the COVID-19 outbreak. The House and the Senate have adopted special rules for in-person voting while adhering to health protections.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) says long-distance voting is not an option right now.

gretchen whitmer sitting at table
State of Michigan

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has issued another COVID-19-related executive order. The order says employees who think they have the disease have a right to stay home.

It also says businesses cannot fire or punish employees who stay home because they show symptoms or think they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus. The order also covers workers who have to care for someone at home who’s sick with COVID-19.

Adobe Stock

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says the doors to school buildings are locked for the rest of this school year. This is not a surprise. It just makes permanent an earlier order that temporarily closed schools. That was to buy time to come up with plans to address the rapid spread of the coronavirus. But the governor says it won’t be safe anytime soon for students and teachers to return to school. 


Governor Gretchen Whitmer has declared a state of disaster in Michigan. And she is asking the Legislature to extend her emergency powers to deal with the coronavirus outbreak that’s claimed more than 300 lives in Michigan.

Governor Whitmer sent a letter to House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake). She asked the Republican leaders to call votes to extend emergency powers she’s exercised on her own until now.

prison cell for two people
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court says county jails should accelerate efforts to reduce the number of incarcerated people. And Chief Justice Bridget McCormack says the rapid spread of COVID-19 has made jails more dangerous for inmates, staff, and the sheriff’s deputies who guard them.

Gretchen whitmer at a microphone
Jake Neher / WDET

On Monday, Bridge Magazine reported Governor Gretchen Whitmer was expected to sign an executive order that would effectively end the school year for Michigan students. However, Whitmer has told Michigan Radio that there won't be an order coming today and that coming up with a comprehensive plan to meet the needs of the students won't happen overnight. Whitmer did indicate that an order could be signed as soon as Wednesday, however.

beaumont hospital royal oak exterior
Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order that makes it easier for health care workers to handle more medical duties. It’s part of the state’s response to the growing shortage of health care workers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The order relaxes some rules to allow specialists, nurses, and physician assistants to take on more responsibilities to help address the growing shortage of health care workers.

a family sitting outside together at a park
Rick Pluta / Michigan Radio

Updated March 27, 2020 at 11:59 a.m.

On a radio interview with WWJ-AM Friday morning, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said that it would be "very unlikely" that students would be returning to Michigan schools before the end of the 2019-2020 school year.