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

Governor Rick Snyder won’t say whether he thinks Michigan taxpayers should shoulder some of the burden of helping Detroit public employees and retirees, should they lose pension benefits in Detroit’s bankruptcy.

  Pension cuts are a distinct possibility. The governor says he won’t talk about while the case is litigated.

“I don’t think that’s appropriate given that it’s an ongoing legal matter, and the consequences of any statements, and the references and the inferrels (sic) that would come out of that. That wouldn’t be right to comment about at this time,” Snyder says.

Matthew Fletcher / Indigenous Law & Policy Center at MSU College of Law

A faceoff between the state of Michigan and an Upper Peninsula Indian tribe over a proposed casino reached the U.S. Supreme Court Monday. The arguments were about whether tribes are immune from lawsuits for enterprises that take place off of reservation land. 

A federal judge in Detroit says the state must give more than 350 inmates sentenced as juveniles to life without parole a chance at freedom. US District Court  Judge John O’Meara says a US Supreme Court ruling that struck down Michigan’s juvenile lifer law and others like it applies retroactively, as well as in the future.

The order also says the state has to offer a “real and meaningful” chance at parole.

State of Michigan

  A firm led by the brother of Michigan’s budget director proposed a five million dollar project as part of the state budget. The money was approved, and now the company, i-School Campus, is bidding on the contract.

  The plan is to run pilot projects to test privately managing technology in the public schools. Budget Director John Nixon says, because of his brother’s involvement, he told the governor’s office, the Legislature, and his staff that he would not and could not play a role in deciding which company gets the contract.

Governor Rick Snyder has moved lawsuits challenging some of his administration’s most-controversial policies to a new panel of judges on the state Court of Appeals. The governor has signed a bill that shakes up the court that hears big lawsuits against the state.

Some of the lawsuits that will be moved challenge the emergency manager and right-to-work laws. Governor Snyder says he signed the bill because one county’s voters – mostly Democrats in Ingham – should not be choosing the judges that decide so many big cases against the state. 

Republicans in Lansing are split over whether people who bankroll so-called “issue ads” should be allowed to remain anonymous. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson proposed a rule to require disclosure just hours before Michigan Senate Republicans voted to block her effort.

Prison fence.
WFIU Public Radio/Flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether more than 300 inmates sentenced to life without parole for murders committed while they were juveniles are entitled to parole hearings.

There's a nationwide search underway to find former students who don't know they've already done all or most of the work needed to earn a credential that might help them land a better-paying job.

In Michigan, several hundred community college dropouts were recently surprised to learn they had enough credits to qualify for an associate degree. There are also ex-students who apparently didn't know they're just a few credits shy of a two-year degree.

A crowd marched Tuesday on the United States Supreme Court. The rally drew people from Detroit and other parts of Michigan.

They chanted: “What do we want?” “Affirmative action!” “When do we want it?” “Now!” and “They say ‘Jim Crow!’” “We say, ‘hell no!’’’

“They say ‘Jim Crow!’” “We say, ‘hell no!’’

The protest was aimed at Michigan’s ban on affirmative action in university admissions. It was approved by voters in 2006. And it took place as the Supreme Court heard a legal challenge to the amendment.

A federal judge in Detroit is going to take more time to decide whether to uphold or strike down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage. Judge Bernard Friedman set a February trial date to get expert testimony.

The further delay was a disappointment to gay marriage supporters, who’d hoped for a decision Wednesday. There were same-sex couples lined up at some county clerks’ offices anticipating a decision in their favor.

For the second time in a decade, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether Michigan's university admissions policies are constitutional. Ten years ago, the challenge was to the University of Michigan's use of affirmative action to ensure diversity on campus. Tomorrow, civil rights groups will argue against the state's voter-approved ban on affirmative action.

State Treasurer Andy Dillon will resign his position. In a statement released Friday, Dillon cites the media attention from a messy divorce as his primary reason for stepping down.

Dillon says it would be unfair to both his family and Michigan residents to continue as treasurer amid the controversies and litigation surrounding an acrimonious divorce. He has also struggled with drinking. Dillon says his family deserves privacy, and Michigan residents deserve to know their treasurer is not distracted.

The prison in Baldwin will remain closed for now. Michigan will not allow the privately run, for-profit prison in northern Michigan to house about a thousand inmates because there would be no savings to taxpayers.

The state turned down two bids. In both cases, the contracts would have cost more than what the state pays right now.

The Florida-based GEO Group was hoping to re-open an empty prison it owns in the town of Baldwin. Utah-based Management and Training Corporation also submitted a bid.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is siding with city employees and pension funds that say those benefits should not be part of Detroit bankruptcy proceedings. Schuette plans to be in court Monday to file a request to join the case.

The Attorney General says the Michigan Constitution specifically protects public employee pension benefits from being impaired or diminished.

A federal judge is allowing a legal challenge to Michigan adoption laws and its ban on same-sex marriage to go forward. The judge turned down the state’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.

In a written order, Judge Bernard Friedman says the U.S. Supreme Court decision last week striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act has left unanswered questions that could be addressed by this case.

A federal judge has struck down a Michigan law which prohibits public employers from offering health coverage and other benefits to the unmarried, live-in partners of their employees. In a preliminary ruling, U.S. District Court Judge David Lawson says the law serves no compelling public interest, but it does deny equal protection to people in same-sex relationships.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions on gay marriage don’t really change the legal status of same-sex couples in Michigan. In 2004, voters amended the Michigan Constitution to enact a sweeping ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions.

But there’s a lot happening on the issue in courts, the Legislature, and on the campaign trail. The Supreme Court’s decision returns gay marriage battles to Michigan and the 34 other states that prohibit same-sex marriage.

The nation’s highest court has agreed to decide whether the state can challenge a tribe’s right to open a casino in the northern Michigan town of Vanderbilt.

The U.S. Supreme Court accepted the case today, which will place it on the docket for the upcoming term.

The issue is whether state Attorney General Bill Schuette has the legal standing to challenge the casino. The Bay Mills Indian tribe says he does not – that the Vanderbilt property is part of the tribe’s independent territory purchased with money from a land settlement with the federal government.

Five Michigan Indian tribes have decided to challenge the state’s decision to hold a wolf hunt in the western Upper Peninsula this coming fall.

The tribes of the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority say the state did not consult with them in a meaningful way before establishing a gray wolf season, and that’s required by a 2007 consent decree.                                                            

Aaron Payment, chair of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, says the wolf is sacred in tribal culture and the hunting season disrespects that.

A referendum on wolf hunting in Michigan will be on the November 2014 ballot, but the vote will not stop a wolf hunting season in the Upper Peninsula scheduled for this fall.

Petitions to let voters decide whether the law should remain on the books were certified Wednesday by a state elections panel. The “Keep Michigan Wolves Protected” ballot campaign says allowing the gray wolf to be hunted could return it to the endangered species list.

The Michigan Supreme Court will let stand a policy that allows most state employees to enroll live-in partners on their health plans.  The court today declined to hear a challenge to live-in partner benefits.

The court issued a brief order simply stating the justices saw no reason to take the case.

A state House committee has approved a measure that would change how hunting is managed in Michigan, and bypass a referendum on wolf hunting if it’s on the ballot next year.

Two questions dominated the hearing on the bill: whether hunting is an appropriate part of plans to manage wolves in the Upper Peninsula, and whether the Legislature should approve a new law to allow wolf hunts before the referendum.

A special Michigan grand jury, including members from Grand Traverse County, will investigate meningitis deaths and illnesses linked to tainted steroid injections. The grand jury will look into whether any laws were broken in connection with an outbreak that has killed 16 people in Michigan. To people have died from the tainted injections since the request for a grand jury was originally filed. 

The U.S. Supreme Court will review Michigan’s ban on race- and gender-based affirmative action in university admissions. Arguments in the case are expected to take place next fall.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is defending the amendment to the state constitution, which was adopted by voters in 2006. Schuette says race and gender should not be part of the decision on who gets to attend a public university.                

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