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

UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN STUDY VIDEO

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.

An advocacy group for kids says a court-ordered report shows Michigan has a long way to go before it can guarantee the safety and welfare of children in foster care.

The monitors report says problems include the state not doing background checks on many relatives who take in foster kids, and not investigating credible allegations of abuse or neglect.

Some Democrats in the Legislature are calling for a law that would allow authorities to seize the firearms of people who threaten to commit suicide or hurt others.

State Representative Robert Wittenberg (D- Oak Park) sponsored a bill that would allow a judge to issue an “extreme risk protection order.” The order would have to requested by a family member or a law enforcement official. And it could last no more than a year.

State lawmakers say they will look into reports the Michigan agency that handles child abuse and neglect cases fudged its numbers to make it appear it was complying with a court order.

A state House committee held its first hearing Wednesday on legislation that would outlaw “sanctuary cities” in Michigan. The bills would ban local ordinances and rules that police officers says cannot ask about the immigration status of a suspect or a witness unless it’s tied to their investigation.

The Republican sponsors say local governments should not have rules against enforcing federal immigration laws.

The Mackinac Bridge will be largely closed to vehicle traffic the morning of Labor Day.

It’s an additional security measure adopted by a unanimous vote of the Mackinac Bridge Authority to help ensure the safety of people attending the annual bridge walk amid concerns of terrorism.

There were tears and hugs on the floor of the state House today as colleagues got word that state Representative John Kivela (D-Marquette) took his life – one day after his second arrest on a charge of drunk driving.
 
House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) announced that Tuesday and Wednesday sessions would be cancelled to mourn Kivela’s passing.

“I’m sure today is the toughest day we will experience this term together,” said Leonard. “And I truly have no words about the loss of our dear friend, John Kivela.”

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen has been chosen by President Trump to serve on the Sixth Circuit US Court of Appeals. Trump once put Larsen on his list of judges and lawyers he would consider naming to the US Supreme Court.

Teachers don’t have to wait if they want to drop out of their union. That ruling was handed downWednesday by the Michigan Court of Appeals. The court said the Michigan Education Association can’t force teachers who want to leave to wait until an August “opt-out period.”          

The ruling would also apply to other unions that would want to restrict when members could exit.

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