Rick Pluta

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.

Rick was one of the first Michigan political reporters to write about “pay-to-play” fundraising, and the controversies surrounding recognition of same-sex relationships. He broke the news that Gov. John Engler was planning a huge juvenile justice overhaul that included adult-time-for-adult-crime sentencing, and has continued to report since then on the effects of that policy decision.

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.

Follow him on Twitter at @rickpluta

Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon has apologized to survivors of sex assaults by sports doctor Larry Nassar.

Simon made the apology during a Michigan State Board of Trustees meeting Friday. The university faces complaints and lawsuits that claim they ignored warnings that Nassar was abusing girls and women who were his patients. Nassar has pleaded guilty to multiple counts of sexual assault.

The state accepts the first applications for people who want to get into the medical marijuana business starting tomorrow. The licenses will allow businesses to legally grow, process, transport, or sell marijuana to patients who have medical marijuana cards. 

David Harnz works for the Michigan Medical Marihuana Licensing Board.  He says it will take three or four months to process the applications.

A medical school dean who supervised a Michigan State University sports doctor convicted of sexually abusing patients is stepping down.

Trade unions plan to launch a petition drive tomorrow to shield Michigan’s prevailing wage law from another petition drive.

The effort is a response to another proposed initiative. It would ban a requirement that contractors pay union-level wages on state-funded construction projects. That’s led by non-union contractors. They say prevailing wage drives up their costs.         

The Legislature has sent Governor Rick Snyder a set of local retirement bills that passed by wide margins once they were stripped of controversial provisions.

The bills stalled last week as local governments and public employee unions protested measures that would give the state sweeping authority over local budgets. 

Those were taken out, and now local governments will have their retirement plans assessed by the state Treasury, says state Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive.

The state would evaluate retirement funds in every Michigan city, township, village, and county under a legislation rolled out today by Republicans in Lansing. Communities with under-funded liabilities would have to fix that, or a state-appointed financial management team would step 

Millionaire businessman Sandy Pensler has joined the group of Republicans who want to be the nominee to run against incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow. 

Pensler says he is a trained economist and an entrepreneur who understands how to drive job creation. He also says he’s a big fan of President Trump’s efforts to reduce regulations on businesses.

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a spending bill that includes more money to prosecute members of his administration for their roles in the Flint water crisis.

The $600,000 will go to state Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office. State Health and Human Services Department Director Nick Lyon and Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells are among those charged.

“It is paying for prosecutions," said Andrea Bitely with the attorney general’s office. "It is paying for expert witness fees. It is paying for travel expenses. It is paying for any number of things.”       

The ACLU is trying to force the release of Iraqi detainees being held by federal immigration authorities. The civil liberties group filed a motion today with a federal judge in Detroit.

This is happening as the first round of detainees are getting their government files, which will allow them to start the process of having their cases re-opened.

Miriam Aukerman is an ACLU attorney. She says hundreds of detainees have been locked up for four or five months without a hearing.

A law that takes effect today creates the Michigan Cyber Civilian Corps. The team will be called up if the governor declares an emergency if there is a cyber-attack or some other internet threat looms. The group will be made up entirely of volunteers who are experts in cyber-security. They will have to pass criminal background checks.             

A state lawmaker could be in trouble for failing to explain thousands of dollars in expenditures by his campaign committee.

The Detroit Free Press reports that state Sen. Jim Marleau, R-Lake Orion, used his campaign fund to pay $114,000 on his personal credit card. Filings by his campaign committee often did not provide details on what the cards were used for.

The ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Oversight Committee wants to subpoena Governor Rick Snyder. Rep. Elijah Cummins, D-Maryland, says the governor has not been forthcoming about when he first knew about a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Genesee County.

From Cummins’ letter to committee chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC):

A former tribal official plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court after lower courts ruled he’s not eligible to run for a local city council.

At issue is a provision in the state constitution. It says public officials convicted of fraud and other crimes cannot seek another office.

The Michigan Constitution says public officials who violate the “public trust” are barred from holding an elected or appointed government office for 20 years.

Local governments in Michigan have won a major victory in a property tax fight with big box stores.

Millions of dollars in revenue for local governments – or tax savings for big box stores – are at stake.

In this case, now three years old, the retailer Menards wanted a property it had vacated in Escanaba to be taxed as closed and empty. But Menard’s property deed says it cannot be sold for a similar use, making it nearly impossible to redevelop.

The city said that’s not fair, and wants to tax it for its most-valuable use, including retail.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has come up with plans to overhaul the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency in hopes of stopping future efforts like one that led to thousands of people being wrongly accused of fraud.

A workgroup developed the plan in response to a scandal at the agency -- an agency computer system erroneously said 37 thousand people collected benefits they weren’t entitled to. The state then sanctioned them quadruple damages.

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