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

The Michigan Court of Appeals has put a lawsuit regarding state money for private schools on hold while it decides who can be part of it.

The court will decide whether a group of Republican lawmakers and Catholic school parents can challenge Michigan’s ban on public money for private schools. And they want to join the lawsuit as defendants, not plaintiffs.

The Mackinac Bridge will be closed to most vehicle traffic the morning of Labor Day. The bridge authority made that decision today. Their concern was the risk of a terrorist attack on the Labor Day bridge walk, which attracts thousands of people.

The decision means no vehicles will be allowed to cross the bridge from 6:30 a.m. to noon except for busses and emergency vehicles.

Michiganders could decide next year whether to legalize marijuana in the state and many politicos are wondering how that ballot question could affect the 2018 election.

There was a big rally at the state Capitol Wednesday to support improved mental health services and to oppose Governor Rick Snyder’s plan to overhaul how those services are paid for.

There were tears and hugs on the floor of the state House today as colleagues got word that state Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette, took his life – one day after his second arrest on a charge of drunk driving.

“I’m sure today is the toughest day we will experience this term together,” House Speaker Tom Leonard told his colleagues in the House. “And I truly have no words about the loss of our dear friend, John Kivela.”

UPDATED @ 8:48 on 5/9/17

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen has been chosen by President Trump to serve on the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Trump once put Larsen on his list of judges and lawyers he would consider naming to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A petition campaign wants to allow marijuana retailers in Michigan communities that will permit it, and for people to grow their own at home. The campaign has submitted its petition for approval by a state elections board.

Jeff Irwin is the campaign’s political director. He says the proposal would regulate recreational marijuana using a system similar to the one for selling beer, wine, and alcohol. He says outlawing pot has been a failure.

Michigan State University is asking a court to decide whether it has to release police and arrest records related to a highly publicized investigation. The records are related to the criminal investigation into an alleged sexual assault that may involve members of the Spartan football team.

The sports network ESPN filed a request for the records under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. But the Ingham County Prosecutor’s office says releasing the records could interfere with the criminal investigation.

State lawmakers are back at the Capitol following their spring break. One job facing them is ending a standoff over money to help Macomb County deal with a giant sinkhole.

The sinkhole is as big as a football field and displaced two dozen families after an underground pipe collapsed on Christmas Eve in Fraser. Now, the disaster threatens to rupture sewer lines that could send a giant mess into Lake Saint Clair, which is part of the Great Lakes system.

The state House approved a $3 million dollar grant before the spring break. But the Senate wants the money to be a loan.

A Republican state lawmaker says Michigan should protect people’s internet privacy if the federal government won’t.

State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, has asked for bills that would restore privacy protections for people in Michigan. That’s after Congress voted to block a rule that would have required internet service providers to get customers’ permission before selling their data.    

“So now, if you go on an internet service provider, or if you go on a search engine, anything you look at can be retained and it can be sold,” Jones said.

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.

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers and local officials will try again this year to shut down a tax break that’s allowed big box stores to cut their property taxes.

 

Pressure’s growing on Michigan’s congressional Republicans who have to make a decision whether to support a healthcare overhaul that could be voted on next week.

AARP of Michigan says the proposed replacement to Obamacare would mean higher costs for older people.

“It is simply unacceptable,” said Paula Cunningham, state director of the AARP of Michigan. She says the proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act would mean higher costs for older people.

“Do the math,” she said. “You know, what does that do to their income?”

Some state lawmakers got an early peek at Governor Rick Snyder’s new lead rules that are supposed to be rolled out this week.l A top state environmental official shared some details in testimony before a state House budget subcommittee.

A storm that hammered the entire state with hurricane-force winds has left behind an unprecedented number of downed poles and power lines. And that poses a new danger for people still without power with the onset of freezing temperatures.

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