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

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A state board has taken a step that clears the way for a petition campaign to move ahead. 

The Board of State Canvassers approved 100 words to summarize a sweeping 8,489 word proposed amendment to the state Constitution. The amendment would outlaw lobbyist gifts to state elected officials and create a two-year waiting period before those officials can become paid lobbyists.

Ben Cooper / Spaceflight Now

Political and business officials in Michigan are trying to win permission to make a former Northeast Michigan Air Force base into a rocket launch site.

Wurtsmith Air Force Base was decommissioned in 1993 and is now a smaller regional airport. But economic developers now hope the airport can be used as what they’re calling a “space base.”

person signing a petition while another holds a clipboard
Svetlana / Adobe Stock

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether a law that makes it more difficult for petition drives to qualify for the ballot is constitutional.

profile shot of Gretchen Whitmer
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan Senate voted Thursday to reject one of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s appointments to the state Natural Resources Commission, which oversees hunting and fishing regulations.

stock photo of a water bill and pen
aberenyi / Adobe Stock

The Detroit City Council could adopt a resolution soon asking Governor Gretchen Whitmer to declare water shutoffs a public health emergency. That’s according to a report in The Detroit News.

Civil rights groups have been pressing the governor to address water shutoffs. They say the problem has been building for decades.

Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says it’s possible to make elections more open and more efficient, and still ensure voting is secure and accurate.

Benson says she favors paper ballots over electronic systems like the phone app that created chaos in the Iowa caucuses.

Art of Hoping / Unsplash

Bills before a state House committee would change how money from unredeemed bottle and can deposits is used.

Supporters say the legislation would enact long-overdue amendments to Michigan’s deposit law. But opponents say it would divert money that’s needed for environmental cleanups.

profile shot of Gretchen Whitmer
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Governor Gretchen Whitmer kicked off a tour to sell her proposed budget with a speech to business leaders in southeast Michigan. In her address to the Detroit Economic Club, the governor said she’s standing by her call for a fuel tax increase to pay for road repairs.

She said road spending has grown too reliant over the past two decades on transfers from the state’s general fund. At the same time, she said, general fund revenue has remained steady.

blue pure michigan sign in Ironwood, MI
MelissaMN / Adobe Stock

Funding for the Pure Michigan tourism campaign could be returning. Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s budget proposal, announced Thursday, includes $15 million dollars for the campaign.

Whitmer at podium
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Twitter

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivered the official Democratic Party response to the State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Whitmer delivered her 10-minute rebuttal from the East Lansing High School auditorium packed with invited guests. She says numbers don’t tell the whole story of what’s happening with the US economy. She says that the stock market may be doing well, but workers are not getting fair wages and job security.

Gretchen whitmer at a microphone
Jake Neher / WDET

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she will mention impeachment Tuesday night when she delivers the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address.

Gretchen Whitmer signing bill
Zoe Clark / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is pushing back against new limits the Trump administration wants to impose on state Medicaid programs.

Whitmer sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She says a proposed rule would not serve states and patients and would not succeed in its goal of giving states more flexibility. 

Governor Whitmer and Lt. Govenor Garlin Gilchrist
Jake Nehr / WDET

Democrats are turning to Michigan’ s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, to deliver the English language response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.

The choice highlights the central role Michigan and the industrial Midwest are expected to play in the presidential election this year.

Trump won Michigan by a fraction of a percentage point, but that was enough to put the state’s 16 electoral votes in the Republican column. It was also the first time the GOP candidate won the state since 1988.

Cracked and broken roads
nirbhao / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The State Transportation Commission has given the go-ahead to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s plan to sell taxpayer-backed bonds to finance Michigan’s most urgently needed road repairs.

“This will help us front load some projects that are really important in a crumbling infrastructure that is getting more dangerous and expensive by the day, getting a low interest rate and getting it done now so we can bend the curve so we can manage this asset,” says Whitmer.

person signing a petition while another holds a clipboard
Svetlana / Adobe Stock

A court says a state law makes it too hard for citizen-led petition drives to adopt new laws and amendments to the Michigan Constitution.

The law was adopted in 2018 by the Republican-controlled Legislature.


General Motors is making a $2.2 billion investment in an assembly plant entirely devoted to electric vehicles, the company announced today. The Detroit-Hamtramck plant will support 2,200 manufacturing jobs.

Gov. Whitmer
Cheyna Roth / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer will deliver the Democratic Response following President Donald Trump's State of the Union Address on February 4, 2020. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced the news in a press release Friday.

A liberal advocacy group has taken an early step to put a proposed amendment to the state Constitution on the ballot this year. It would place new controls on lobbying state elected officials.

a sign that says "stop abortion now" and another that says "keep abortion legal"
Unsplash/Adobe Stock

Republican leaders in the Legislature say they are ready to adopt a petition-initiated bill to place new restrictions on abortion. They’re waiting for state elections officials to certify that the signatures are valid. The initiative would outlaw the procedure known medically as dilation and evacuation.

Senator Peter Lucido
Senator Peter Lucido

A Republican state lawmaker faces a formal investigation into whether he sexually harassed a young journalist.

According to her account published in Michigan Advance, Allison Donahue was standing outside the Senate chamber with a group of high school boys from Senator Pete Lucido’s (R-Shelby Township) district.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Civil rights groups are calling on Governor Gretchen Whitmer to declare a “health emergency” in Detroit that would block water service shutoffs for unpaid bills.

police officer issues breathalyzer on citizen
Wikimedia Commons

Updated January 16 at 4:30 p.m.:

The Michigan State Police has identified at least 52 drunk driving cases that could have been affected by breathalyzers that were not properly maintained. That’s according to testimony Thursday in a state Senate hearing.

person paying with a credit card on a square machine
Patrick Tomasso / Unsplash

The state Senate Republican leader has put the sales tax on the table as a possible way to fund road repairs. Governor Gretchen Whitmer and legislative leaders have re-started talks on how to pay for roads.

Road in need of repair.
Peter Ito / Flickr

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she thinks it will take a mixture of funding sources to come up with enough money to fix Michigan’s roads and infrastructure.

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

Updated January 10, 2020, at 5:31 p.m.:

The recall effort against State Representative Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg) is over.

The secretary of state announced Thursday night that the group didn’t have enough signatures on their petition. Hundreds were tossed out over typos and legibility concerns. 

michigan quarter in a pile of change
calvste / Adobe Stock

The Michigan economy will continue to grow – but at a modest pace that won’t match the national economy’s growth rate. That determination comes from economists and state budget officials.

They met Friday at the state Capitol. Their job is to agree on revenue numbers that Governor Gretchen Whitmer and state lawmakers will use to put together the next state budget.

Many states have cracked down on distracted driving.
Adobe Stock

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she’d like to sign a law that does more to discourage distracted driving on Michigan roads.

She met on Thursday with a group of advocates on the question.

They included family members of people killed as a result of driving while distracted by electronic devices.

Bill schuette
Courtesy Michigan Attorney General's office

A liberal advocacy group argued Wednesday that the state Supreme Court should give it access to records from the state attorney general’s office.

person signing a petition while another holds a clipboard
Svetlana / Adobe Stock

A petition campaign will start gathering signatures to add protections for LGBTQ people to Michigan’s civil rights law. 

head shot of Tom Leonard
Tom Leonard for Michigan

Michigan’s two U.S. senators have effectively blocked President Donald Trump’s pick to serve as the U.S. attorney for western Michigan.