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 U.S. Supreme Court is about to hear two cases dealing with gay marriage.

At the same time in Michigan, a federal judge could rule as soon as Thursday on a challenge to the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions. In that case, a lesbian couple sued not because they want to be married, but because they want to be parents.

Governor Rick Snyder has picked a judge and former Republican candidate for county prosecutor to fill a vacancy on the Michigan Supreme Court. Judge David Viviano opposed abortion and same-sex marriage and favored the death penalty during an unsuccessful run for Macomb County prosecutor. He says those questions did not come up during interviews for the job of justice.

Viviano says one of his priorities is to update courts’ technology so the public has easier access to the system.

There’s a hearing this week in Lansing on legislation that would stop the state from setting aside hundreds of acres strictly for the purpose of nurturing native plants and animals.

Opponents and supporters of the legislation packed a hearing last week on the measure.

“To do away with that designation, to me, is a big step backwards in the protection of what makes Michigan ‘Pure Michigan,’” says Democratic state Senator Rebekah Warren.

American Indian tribes of Michigan are part of a coalition that’s looking to reverse a new law that allows for a wolf-hunting season in the Upper Peninsula. The coalition, unveiled Tuesday, is trying to put a referendum on the 2014 ballot.

Aaron Payment, chair of the Sault Sainte Marie (soo saynt MAH’-ree) Tribe of Chippewa Indians, says a wolf hunt would be an affront to tribal culture.

Larry McGahey / USFWS Headquarters/Flickr

A new ballot campaign seeks to overturn a state law that opens the door to a wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula. The campaign Keep Michigan Wolves Protected will appear before a state elections board Thursday to get its petition approved for circulation.

Elenah Neshcuet/Flickr

A divided Michigan Court of Appeals panel has upheld extending health benefits to the live-in partners of state employees. The court’s majority rejected the argument that the benefits violate the state’s ban on gay marriage and civil unions.

The court said the state Civil Service Commission offers the benefits equally to people in both same-sex and heterosexual relationships.

Legislation that could allow a limited wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula cleared the state House during this last week of the lame duck session. The Legislature has adjourned for the year.

It’s now up to Governor Rick Snyder to sign the bill into law.

“This is an animal that just came off the endangered species list,” says state Representative Jeff Irwin. The Democrat from Ann Arbor voted against the change. “The (wolf) populations are not even healthy or even abundant, and I don’t think it’s the right time to talk about shooting wolves in northern Michigan.”

UPDATE 11/29/2012: The state Senate has passed a bill that declares the gray wolf a game species in Michigan. Under the legislation, state wildlife officials could establish a wolf hunting season. The measure now goes to the state House.

The state Senate is expected to vote as soon as Thursday on legislation that would declare the gray wolf a game species in Michigan. That would allow state wildlife officials to create a wolf hunting season.

It’s estimated there are several hundred wolves in the Upper Peninsula. In some cases, wolves have been found where people live.

There are three races this year for spots on the Michigan Supreme Court. Two incumbents are running, and there’s one open seat.

The Republican and Democratic parties spend millions of dollars to get their candidates elected to the state’s highest court, even though candidates are listed on the non-partisan part of the ballot.  

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission is at odds with the state Attorney General over a question of affirmative action.

Attorney General Bill Schuette is trying to get the courts to side with Michigan voters, who chose in 2002 to ban the use of race or gender in admissions decisions.

The Civil Rights Commission has now filed an opposing brief.