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 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 2018 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 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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.

A federal appeals court says a northern Michigan Indian tribe does not get to set its own labor rules at the casino it operates near Manistee.

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians claimed tribal sovereignty allowed it to adopt its own laws that ban strikes and discourage union organizing by casino employees. The Teamsters challenged the tribal act, and the union won before the National Labor Relations Board.

But the Little River Band says the board has no jurisdiction in this instance.

Cafemama/Flickr

The Legislature has approved budgets for the coming fiscal year.

The K-through-12 schools budget was enthusiastically endorsed by Republicans and Democrats. Every school district in the state will see a funding bump of $70 to $140 per student under the new K-through-12 budget the Legislature just sent to Governor Rick Snyder.

Snyder (R) says he’s pleased money for an early literacy project is part of the budget that’s now on its way to his desk.

Peter Payette

The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld the state’s ban on Russian boar and other breeds of exotic swine.

Michigan banned several strains of boar as invasive species because they breed prolifically, endanger other wildlife, and ruin woods and farmland.

An Upper Peninsula hunting ranch sued, saying the state got it wrong – that the law is impossible to enforce because there’s little to no difference between strains of swine, especially when they escape into the wild.

Peter Payette

Michigan voters have soundly rejected Proposal One, Governor Rick Snyder’s $2 billion dollar plan to fund road repairs without siphoning money from schools and local governments. The loss sends the governor and the Legislature back to the bargaining table because almost everyone still agrees the roads are bad.

    

Rick Pluta

Michigan is now waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to make its decision on same-sex marriage bans like the one adopted by voters 11 years ago.

Thousands of demonstrators for and against same-sex marriage pressed up to the steps of the Supreme Court and cheered and jeered as the litigants emerged.

The state of Michigan says it’s an issue for voters to decide. The challengers says there’s no reason for Michigan and other states to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.

April DeBoer says she’s optimistic the court will allow her to marry her partner, Jayne Rowse.

Paul Maritinez/Flickr

In one of many concessions to the budget crisis of the 1990s, the state Capitol in Lansing was closed to the public on weekends. Now, almost 20 years later, finances have improved, and the historic building will re-open to visitors on Saturdays.

The decision was made by the Michigan Capitol Commission, which governs operations of the Victorian-era structure listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The decision to close the Capitol on weekends came as the state was in a deep recession and short on money.

Timo Newton Syms/Flickr

The Michigan Senate has taken an initial step toward overhauling Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance system.

The legislation would set limits on what hospitals could charge insurance companies. It would also cap what insurers can be charged for in-home care for people severely injured in car accidents.

“The best approach to bringing down insurance rates in Michigan is to get costs out of the system – to get costs out of the system,” said state Senator Joe Hune (R-Fowlerville), who chairs the Senate Insurance Committee,

Michigan’s unemployment rate has dropped to 5.6 percent. That’s a reduction of three-tenths of a percentage point, which is a bigger-than-usual adjustment.   

But that decline in the monthly rate is due to a reduction in the workforce, as it’s measured by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the state Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. Actual month-to-month new hiring was flat, but there were fewer people competing for those jobs.

That didn’t stop Governor Rick Snyder (R) from trumpeting the new jobs numbers in a prepared statement:

The campaign to ban the drilling process known as “fracking” plans to launch a petition drive next month. This will be the third time the anti-fracking campaign has tried to get lawmakers or voters to adopt a ban.

Earlier efforts fell short, but LuAnn Kozma of the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan says the ongoing controversy about drilling has helped the cause.
“I think people are getting it,” she said. “When they hear about fracking, they don’t want it.”

New York Department of Environmental Conservation

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has put the northern long-eared bat on the “threatened” species list. The agency stopped short of saying the species is in danger of being wiped out by white-nose bat syndrome. The fungus has already killed millions of bats across the country.

Dan Kennedy is an endangered species expert with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. He says the decision gives state wildlife officials more time to plan while the bats hibernate.

  Gov. Rick Snyder says there’s no backup plan to boost road funding if voters reject a sales tax increase in May.

Snyder urged listeners to vote “yes” on the measure during an appearance on Michigan Public Radio’s statewide call-in program “Michigan Calling.”

Pages