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

A campaign committee controlled by Republican leaders is facing fines and questions over how it lost track of many thousands of dollars during the last election.

Paul Maritinez/Flickr

A campaign committee controlled by Republican leaders is facing fines and questions over how it lost track of many thousands of dollars during the last election.

The Michigan State Board of Education is trying to pressure schools to drop team mascots and nicknames that are offensive to Native American tribes.

The board is asking the Legislature to adopt budget sanctions on schools that won’t scrap offensive Native American mascots.

“We want to make sure that students are able to go to school and to learn and be in environments that are conducive to learning, and so that is why it’s quite important,” said Pam Pugh, a Democratic board member.

A state elections board officially declared Republican Donald Trump the winner of the presidential election in Michigan. That starts the clock on a request for a statewide recount that has been called for by Green Party candidate Jill Stein. The campaign has until 2 o’clock Wednesday afternoon to file the request.

There's an unusual fight underway in Michigan over a simple black-and-white sign that identifies a state highway. That highway runs through a popular vacation region. And one business claims it has the exclusive right to use the road sign as a product brand.

But the state disagrees, and the trademark dispute is now in federal court.

Rick Pluta

There are now two desks on the floor of the state House draped with black ribbon and bedecked with flowers.

Lawmakers returned to the state Capitol Tuesday to the news that state Representative Peter Pettalia (R-Presque Isle) was killed Monday evening in a motorcycle crash. The desk of state Representative Julie Plawecki (D-Dearborn Heights) also remains vacant after she died this summer from a heart attack.

The northern Michigan lawmaker who sponsored the bill to repeal Michigan’s mandatory helmet law has died in a motorcycle crash. It’s not known if state Rep. Peter Pettalia (R-Presque Isle) was wearing a helmet when he died.

Authorities are releasing few details. Pettalia was riding on  M-33 in Montmorency County. The Michigan State Police and the Montmorency County Sheriff say they will release more information in the morning. 

Pettalia's district included much of the northeast part of the Lower Peninsula, including Alpena. He chaired the state House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He was serving his third and final state House term, and briefly considered a run for Congress earlier this year. Pettalia was 61 years old.

A lawsuit filed today threatens to blow a $4 billion hole in the state budget.

The legal action says that’s how much the state shortchanges local governments every year.

The lawsuit says the state’s been playing a shell game with local revenue sharing payments.

Detroit Public Schools

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a $617 million dollar bailout of the Detroit Public Schools – which he says represents a fresh start for the financially and academically struggling district.

The plan creates a new debt-free Detroit school district, which will focus on educating the district’s 46 thousand students while the old district pays down the old debt. 

The bills signed by the governor also return control of the district to a locally elected school board following seven years of state control that saw it sink deeper into debt.

 “So I think we’re on a positive path and I look forward to hopefully watching that process happen,” the governor said.

Governor Rick Snyder now says it’s possible he deleted some e-mails
related to Flint, even though he earlier told a congressional committee
that he had not. The governor still insists it’s unlikely he deleted
any Flint-related e-mails, it’s just not impossible.

“He just doesn’t think he had anything on that topic and that if it
was on that topic, it likely would have been important and probably
would have been retained,” said Ann Heaton, the governor’s press
secretary.

A federal judge has approved a settlement to end litigation over a state law that stopped local officials from talking about ballot questions.

The law adopted late last year said local officials can’t use public resources to communicate on ballot questions. Local officials challenged the law and won a preliminary injunction.

The mayor of Waukesha, Wisconsin, is on a tour of state capitals in the Great Lakes region. Mayor Shawn Reilly’s first stop was Monday in Lansing to press state officials to support his city’s request for permission to make a large diversion of water from Lake Michigan.

Someone should resign.

That was the message delivered by members of a congressional oversight panel looking into the drinking water crisis in Flint. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder testified, along with EPA chief Gina McCarthy. Despite that general agreement that someone high up ought to get fired or quit, Republicans and Democrats disagreed on exactly who that should be.


Sarah Razak - Flickr

The charge has been leveled that state and federal officials put salvaging their careers ahead of making sure kids in Flint had safe drinking water.

I guess being a government agency means never having to say you’re sorry,” said Virginia Tech researcher Mark Edwards, who helped sound the alarm on the lead contamination crisis.

There were tense and angry moments at a congressional hearing on the water crisis in Flint.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal for the coming fiscal year pays a lot of attention to Flint’s drinking water crisis and the state’s infrastructure shortcomings.

Snyder had to push past a throng of protesters as he prepared to present his budget plan for the coming fiscal year to state lawmakers.

“Drink the water, Rick!,” they shouted, and: “Fix the pipes!”

The chants of the protesters just outside the doors could be heard inside the room throughout Snyder’s budget rollout.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Lindsey Smith, Michigan Radio

A campaign to add LGBT and gender protections to the Michigan Constitution plans to start gathering signatures in January if a state elections board gives it the go-ahead.

The Board of State Canvassers is being asked to approve the petition form to be circulated by the Fair Michigan ballot campaign. It would add protections against LGBT and gender discrimination to the equal protection clause of the Michigan Constitution. It currently offers anti-discrimination protections based on religion, race, color, or national origin.

The Legislature is set to recess next week for the balance of 2015 with some big jobs left undone. Primarily, Governor Rick Snyder was hoping lawmakers would address what he says is the next stage of the Detroit turnaround -- and that is doing something to fix the city’s schools.

Instead, the governor, Detroit’s parents, and school kids will have to wait until next year.

Snyder laid out his plan to revamp Detroit’s schools back in April. The CPA governor focused on the district’s finances, specifically a debt burden of more than 500 million dollars.          

Russ Climie / Tiberius Image

Governor Rick Snyder was the first governor in the nation to speak out on refugees following last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut. And he may have come to regret it as he tries to clarify his position vis a vis what a lot of the nation’s other Republican governors are saying about refugees and immigration.

Following the attacks, Governor Snyder said he was hitting the “pause” button on efforts to get more visas for Middle Eastern refugees to settle in Michigan.

Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau

Many Michigan Republicans spent the weekend on Mackinac Island, where they enjoyed fine dining and cocktail receptions, listened to the campaign pitches of five presidential candidates, and plotted the future
of their party.

And it was done mostly without the rancor that’s marked other Republican gatherings in recent years.

The effort to expel Todd Courser was first on the agenda. Many hours of floor debate, cajoling, and, finally, a standoff that lasted through the night ended with Courser walking to the front of the House chamber to hand the clerk a brief letter of resignation. Courser then walked back to his desk, collected his things and was escorted out of the chamber by three red-coated sergeants-at-arms, who confiscated his key cards that got him into the parking lot, the House Office Building, and the state Capitol.

David Cassleman

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the days of an energy pipeline running beneath the Straits of Mackinac are numbered. But, a task force led by Schuette does not recommend that day should come anytime soon.

County clerks across the state are getting ready for however the U.S. Supreme Court might rule on legalizing same-sex marriage.

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum says she’s keeping an e-mail list of gay and lesbian couples that want to get married, “…so when a decision in support of equality does come down, I can have direct communication with those parties that may be interested in obtaining a marriage license.”

Controversial adoption on its way to Governor Rick Snyder would allow faith-based adoption agencies that take public money to refuse to work with same-sex couples. That’s even if the US Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage.

The legislation says adoption agencies that take public funds can turn away prospective clients based on a religious objection. That pretty much mirrors the existing state policy.

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