Rick Pluta

MPRN Capitol Bureau Chief

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. 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.

Ways to Connect

The state House has approved a bill to require vehicles to keep a distance of at least three feet when passing bicyclists.


The legislation is largely a response to a fatal accident two years ago near Kalamazoo.


Governor Rick Snyder has signed a budget bill that accelerates spending on road repairs in time to help with the spring and summer construction season.


The bill shifts $175 million from next year’s construction season to use this coming spring and summer to fix roads.


Chuck Grimmett

Michigan State University’s interim President John Engler criticized state lawmakers last week for a package of bills that would give sexual assault victims more time to file lawsuits, among other changes. 

Bills to address campus sexual misconduct have stalled in the state Senate.

The bills are the Legislature’s response to Michigan State University’s handling of the sexual abuse allegations against disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar and complaints about sexual misconduct on college campuses.

The Legislature has sent a bill to Governor Rick Snyder that forbids local governments from adopting ordinances dealing with questions employers may ask in job interviews. It’s an effort to preempt local rules that bar asking about salary histories and criminal backgrounds.

There are no such local regulations in Michigan, but they have been adopted in other states.

Morgan Springer

The state House has adopted bills that would allow prisoners in advanced stages of illness including cancer and dementia to be paroled for medical reasons.


The House split on the bills with Republicans and Democrats voting on both sides of the issue.

Many survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse don’t just blame him. They also blame MSU officials for failing to act even after multiple complaints.

The scandal forced MSU President Lou Anna Simon to step down last week, followed by Athletic Director Mark Hollis, and there could be more resignations coming.

The school’s Board of Trustees has also come under withering attack for actions that seemed to focus more on limiting the school’s culpability than on supporting victims.

“My voice should have been louder much sooner..." says MSU Trustee Dianne Byrum. She adds that she’s learned from this horrible experience.

Nine cities and counties from across Michigan are taking drug companies to court. From the Upper Peninsula to Detroit, they are trying to recover many millions of dollars in costs related to the opioid crisis.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court Monday night. It claims manufacturers, distributors and pharmacy chains misled doctors and the public about the dangers of opioids. And the legal actions also say the drug companies failed to follow safeguards that would have reduced the number of people addicted to opioids.


The state of Michigan is imposing some new conditions on the operation of a controversial oil and gas pipeline. The actions include replacing a portion of Enbridge’s Line 5 that runs beneath the St. Clair River. 

The new line will be in a tunnel beneath the riverbed. The state will also look at doing the same thing with the portion of the line that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac. 

State officials say they’re troubled by a new safety report from Enbridge Energy on Line 5. The report says there are more spots that have been laid bare to the metal because its safety coating has worn off.

Enbridge reported that to state officials Monday.  

The company is being called before the Michigan Pipeline Safety Commission next month to give a status report on Line Five.

Guy Jarvis of Enbridge says Line Five is safe, but the company has done a poor job of sharing details on how it’s managed.

The ranking Democrat on the US House Oversight Committee wants to subpoena Governor Rick Snyder. Rep. Elijah Cummins (D-MD) says the governor has not been forthcoming about when he first knew about a fatal outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease in Genesee County.

From Cummins’ letter to committee chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC):

Michigan State Police Kriste Etue will work five days without pay after Governor Rick Snyder decided that will be the penalty for a controversial Facebook post.

Colonel Etue shared a Facebook meme that called NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem “anti-American degenerates” and “millionaire ingrates.” She quickly took it down, and apologized, but still came under a storm of criticism.

The governor continues to resist calls for her to step down. From a statement released by his office:  

Governor Rick Snyder says he’s concerned that President Trump’s decision to end subsidies that help low-income families pay for health insurance could make rates unaffordable.

Snyder says more study is needed to determine the state’s next move, but he hopes Congress will act quickly to settle things.

Michigan State Police

Governor Rick Snyder says there is no reason to fire State Police Colonel Kriste Etue over a controversial Facebook post. Etue has apologized for sharing a meme on her page that called NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem unpatriotic and “degenerates.”

Snyder says the post was “inappropriate,” but he considers the matter settled.

Michigan’s energy chief says damage to the protective coating on an oil and gas pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac was worse than initially reported.

The state is ordering Enbridge Energy to take swift action to fix portions of the Line 5 energy pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

Enbridge reported to the state that small portions of enamel coating were accidentally removed in two places. The coating protects the oil and gas line that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac from corrosion.

Melody Kindraka of the state Department of Environmental Quality says there’s no immediate threat to the Great Lakes, but it’s concerning that the problem was the result of human error.

Kid Rock, the singer whose career has spanned rap, hard rock and country music, is fueling the speculation that he intends to announce a bid for the U.S. Senate next year to challenge incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. That is unless it's all a publicity stunt.

The operators of the Mackinac Bridge are warning there could be big traffic backups on Labor Day. That’s because the bridge will be closed to vehicle traffic for about five and a half hours during the annual Labor Day bridge walk.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority made the initial decision in May because of security concerns after terrorists drove cars and trucks into crowds in London, Stockholm, and Paris.

The Michigan Supreme Court says religious schools cannot claim a blanket exemption from being sued for violating anti-discrimination laws.

A family sued a Catholic high school in Oakland County. They say the school violated an anti-discrimination law by refusing to admit their daughter because of a learning disability. Among other things, the school argued its operations are protected by religious freedom rights.

A doctor from Saginaw Township is the first candidate for governor to file petition signatures to appear on the ballot next year.

Jim Hines filed more than 22,000 signatures to appear on the August 2018 Republican primary ballot. It takes 15,000 signatures to qualify. The petitions must still be checked and certified by elections officials.        

The state of Michigan has scrapped a risk study on Enbridge’s Line 5 and fired the contractor just a week before a first draft of the report was to be released.

The state Department of Environmental Quality said a conflict of interest on the part of one of the researchers called the independence of the study into question.

University of Michigan study video

Enbridge Energy says pressure tests on two sections of Line 5 that runs under the Straits of Mackinac show the pipeline is well-maintained and does not pose a threat to the Great Lakes.

Enbridge says a test over the weekend of the line that runs under the west bay of the Straits of Mackinac showed no signs of leaks or breaks. Enbridge ran a successful test of the east line earlier this month.          

Andrea Bitely

Two high-ranking state officials in Michigan face serious charges for allegedly keeping an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease in Flint a secret.

Involuntary manslaughter is the most serious criminal charge filed yet related to the Flint water crisis.

A group marched on Governor Rick Snyder’s office Tuesday to call for faster work fixing Flint’s water system.        

About 50 demonstrators delivered more than 1,100 empty water bottles with messages from Flint residents curled inside.

Enbridge Energy says it’s pressure testing the structural integrity of Line Five beneath the Straits of Mackinac. The company says the results appear to show the oil and gas pipeline does not pose a serious threat to the Great Lakes.

The company tested the first of two underwater pipes over the weekend.