Rick Pluta | Michigan Radio
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Rick Pluta

Reporter / Producer - Michigan Public Radio Network

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He 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-hosted 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

Norman shinkle sitting at a table in front of an american flag
Michigan Board of State Canvassers Zoom Meeting

Following a marathon meeting on certifying the statewide results of the November 3 election, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers voted to certify the results in a 3-0 vote with one abstention.

Michigan capitol building
Pkay Chelle / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

The Legislature’s Republican leaders led a delegation of GOP lawmakers to meet Friday with President Donald Trump.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and at least four other Republican lawmakers are in the group.

ballot
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Republicans on the Wayne County vote-canvassing board say they want to take back their votes to certify the November 3 election results.

GOP canvassers said in notarized affidavits they felt pressured to certify following a rancorous public comment period.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan attorney general’s office responded Wednesday to a legal filing asking the state Supreme Court to block certification of the November 3 election.

The lawsuit was filed by poll challengers working for President Donald Trump’s campaign.

The state’s response can be summarized as: the election’s over and the ballots are counted.

Young voters line up to vote in East Lansing, Michigan.
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Court of Appeals says certifying the state’s election results will go ahead. The court rejected an emergency motion from Republican challengers unhappy with Election Day vote counting.

Republican poll challengers asked the court to stop the certification of the votes in Wayne County. Because Wayne has the most voters, that would essentially slow or stop certifying the statewide results.

persoon handle ballot to poll worker
Katie Raymond

With a critical Tuesday deadline looming, Republican challengers unhappy with Election Day vote counting are looking to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

In an emergency appeal filed Monday, Republican poll challengers asked the court to stop the certification of the votes in Wayne County.

Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

A judge has refused to stop certification of Detroit-area election results. Wayne County Judge Timothy Kenny rejected arguments that the city's handling of absentee ballots spoiled the count.

It's the third time that a judge has refused to intervene in steps that are necessary to bless the Michigan results. Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump by 146,000 votes.

ballot drop off box
April Baer / Michigan Radio

A Wayne County judge has promised a decision by Friday on whether to order a delay in certifying election results.

That request came from plaintiffs who are challenging how ballot counting was handled in Detroit.

President Donald Trump’s campaign has also filed a lawsuit in the western Michigan U.S. District Court to attempt to stop the certification of the state’s election results.

Subterranean / Wikipedia Commons

The state Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday on a challenge to Michigan’s ban on taxpayer funds to support private and parochial schools.

The fight is over a $2.5 million appropriation tucked into the $55 billion 2016 state budget.

The money was earmarked to reimburse non-public schools for the costs of complying with health and safety mandates. But its real purpose was to set the stage for a legal fight over the parameters of a 1970, voter-approved amendment. It says taxpayer funds cannot support non-public schools – including religious schools.

The South Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority (SOCRRA) and Madison Heights meet in court May 17.
User: steakpinball / flickr

A growing number of lawsuits are challenging how last Tuesday’s elections were handled in Michigan.

One lawsuit says certification of the election results should be delayed.

There are at least four other cases in state courts challenging how the elections were handled. And at least two cases in federal courts.

Some of those cases have been rejected at least once in lower courts because a judge has ruled the challenges are based on unsubstantiated allegations.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Republican-led House and Senate committees met today to vote themselves subpoena power to examine the conduct of the election. The vote by the joint House and Senate oversight committees fell along party lines.

The vote occurred at almost the same time as Democratic nominee Joe Biden was declared the projected winner of the presidential election.

Democratic state Representative Cynthia Johnson said the action is only meant to cast doubt in the results of a fair election.

absentee ballot
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

The votes are in – and Michigan’s 16 electoral votes will go to Democrat Joe Biden once the results are officially certified. The unofficial tally wrapped up Wednesday.

Just hours before the results were announced, President Donald Trump’s campaign sued the state to stop the counting, alleging problems with the way absentee ballots were counted.


voting booths
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Monday lawyers and election staff are ready to handle any disruptions at the polls Tuesday.

That’s as there’s no word from the state Supreme Court on whether to allow the open carry of guns at polling places.

Nessel said in a phone call that no matter which way the decision goes, there are laws against brandishing firearms and disrupting polling places. 

polling place sign
Tony Brown / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court is the next stop in a legal fight over whether guns can be openly carried at polling places on Election Day. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel say guns can be intimidating – especially in a contentious election. But gun rights advocates say the state can’t step on a right that’s guaranteed under state law.

Polling station sign
user jaina / Creative Commons

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel say it’s not too late to reinstate a ban on openly carrying guns at or near polling places on Election Day.

They are appealing a court ruling that struck down a directive from Benson that banned open carry in and near polling places on Election Day.

sign marking poll distance banning campaigning at polling places
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

A judge has blocked a ban on the open display of guns near Michigan polling places on Election Day. Judge Christopher Murray acted Tuesday, just a few hours after hearing a challenge from gun-rights groups.

Unless it’s reversed by a higher court, it applies to voting places and absentee counting boards November 3. The only exception would be churches and other places that are already allowed to forbid the open carry of guns.

sign that says "vote here"
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A lawsuit is challenging the rules ordered by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson for partisan poll challengers on Election Day.

The complaint says distancing and face covering directives will make it too difficult for poll challengers to see what’s going on as voters are checked in at voting sites.

voter booth
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Gun rights groups are trying to reverse Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s ban on openly carrying firearms where people will vote or where ballots are counted on Election Day. Benson’s office said she has a legal duty to protect voters and poll workers from intimidation, harassment, and coercion.

Three groups filed a lawsuit Friday in the Michigan Court of Claims. Dean Greenblatt is an attorney for the group Michigan Open Carry. He says Benson is acting outside her authority.

gretchen whitmer and joneigh khaldun at podium
michigan.gov

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed bills into law Thursday that show Democrats and Republicans can find room to cooperate on the state’s response to COVID-19.

The bills are the result of bipartisan deal-making. They offer employers more protection from lawsuits and employees more guarantees they can’t be forced to work in situations that could place their health in danger.

Pixabay

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has issued an order to allow more in-person visits with people in nursing homes.

The order applies to facilities in counties the state has identified as “low risk.”

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

Republican state lawmakers have presented their version of a COVID-19 response plan.

The state House GOP proposal follows a court ruling that struck down many of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s unilateral emergency orders.

joneigh khaldun at a press conference
michigan.gov

The state’s chief medical executive testified Monday before a joint House and Senate committee examining the state’s COVID-19 response.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s Chief Medical Executive, told the committee there will be new COVID-19 public health orders issued soon that don’t require the Legislature’s approval.

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

The legislative committee looking into the state’s COVID-19 response meets again Monday. Top health officials in Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration will face questions from the committee.

State Representative Matt Hall, (R-Marshall) chairs the joint House and Senate COVID-19 committee.

He expects there will be questions about infections in nursing homes and why some parts of the economy were allowed to re-open while similar businesses remained in shutdown.  

Polling place
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said she’s using her authority to ensure fair and orderly elections to ban openly carrying firearms at polling places.

Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

An eighth man faces a criminal charge in connection with the alleged plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer and put her on trial over her COVID-19 orders.

51-year-old Brian Higgins is being held in Wisconsin awaiting extradition to Antrim County in northwest Michigan.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign a series of bills adopted by the Legislature as part of a deal on the state’s response to COVID-19.

The bills are the product of bargaining between the GOP-led Legislature and the Democratic governor after the Michigan Supreme Court struck down her continued use of emergency orders.

gretchen whitmer sitting at table
michigan.gov

State and federal authorities have charged a group of 13 suspected terrorists in an alleged plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer and recruit militia members to storm the state Capitol.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the FBI announced the charges Thursday. They say the men wanted to overthrow the state government and incite a civil war.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The state Senate returns Thursday after the Michigan Supreme Court declared many of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 executive orders unconstitutional.

First the Senate and then the House will meet on consecutive days to adopt their own plans and send them to Whitmer to sign or veto.

gretchen whitmer at a press conference
michigan.gov

Governor Gretchen Whitmer said Sunday a court opinion that said she exceeded her authority with a series of COVID-19 emergency orders will not be the final word on the issue.

Whitmer said on CNN the advisory opinion from the state’s highest court puts the health of Michiganders at risk. The Michigan Supreme Court’s opinion said the governor exceeded her authority by issuing and re-issuing orders that require masks, distancing, and restricting public gatherings without getting approval from the Legislature.

someone holding a clipboard while another person signs a petition
Svetlana / Adobe Stock

A petition drive has turned in hundreds of thousands of signatures in an effort to restrict Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s broad emergency powers.

The governor has used that authority to enact policies to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

The Unlock Michigan campaign says Whitmer’s abused that power, hurting businesses and unnecessarily restricting everyday activities for Michiganders.

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