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

Governor Rick Snyder says he’s concerned that President Trump’s decision to end subsidies that help low-income families pay for health insurance could make rates unaffordable.

Snyder says more study is needed to determine the state’s next move, but he hopes Congress will act quickly to settle things.

“I think there are reforms needed to the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “Some parts have worked well, others need more work, and the part that needs more work has been in the insurance markets. This makes it more challenging, but hopefully it gets to the point where Congress could hopefully do some bipartisan actions to improve things.”

About 156,300 Michigan consumers have subsidized health plans. It’s estimated the loss of the subsidies would cause their rates to spike by 28 percent.

The subsidies are already the subject of lawsuits. And there could be more legal action to challenge the presidential order to immediately end the subsidies.

A fight is brewing at the state Capitol over whether the Legislature should preempt local rules on expensive rental properties.

Local governments and neighbors say short-term vacation rentals are changing the character of neighborhoods. The battle is getting particularly fierce in Great Lakes shoreline communities where rental properties can go for thousands of dollars a week.

Lucy Welch lives in Spring Lake on the Lake Michigan shoreline. She says neighbors recently started renting out their home to vacationers.

A plan to grant amnesty to people who owe sometimes thousands of dollars in unpaid driver responsibility fees is in the works.  A bipartisan group of state lawmakers rolled out the proposal today (Thu.).

The bills would not only accelerate the phaseout of the fees, they would forgive $630 million dollars in unpaid fees.

House Speaker Tom Leonard says it’s unlikely most of that money would ever be collected, but he says hundreds of thousands of people are saddled with the hardship of being unable to legally drive.

A group of state House Democrats linked arms today during the Pledge of Allegiance on lieu of putting their hands over their hearts. They said it was to show support for the right of NFL players to take a knee during the national anthem. And to protest a Facebook post by Michigan State Police Col. Kriste Etue that called the players “degenerates.”

Survivors of last year’s deadly bike crash near Kalamazoo testified today before a state Senate committee in support of safety legislation.

Paul Gobble was one of four people injured when a pickup truck plowed into a group of bike riders. Five people were killed. The driver was charged with second-degree murder.

Gobble told lawmakers a “culture change” is needed between drivers and bicyclists sharing the roads.

“There’s a lot of animosity toward cyclists,” he said. “The drivers, there’s a great deal of them that are just angry out there.”

Governor Rick Snyder says there is no reason to fire State Police Colonel Kriste Etue over a controversial Facebook post.

Etue has apologized for sharing a meme on her page that called NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem unpatriotic and “degenerates.”

Snyder says the post was “inappropriate,” but he considers the matter settled.

“She came out and apologized, and she’s done great service for the state,” Snyder said. “The way I view it is people make mistakes, she recognizes that, and let’s keep moving forward.”

A federal judge in Detroit has ordered the government to provide immigration files to Iraqis being detained while they fight deportation. The detainees have been held for months in facilities all across the country while they wait on records needed to go to immigration court.

Miriam Aukerman is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. She says hundreds of detainees were being held with no end in sight while the federal government slow-walked their records.

“People are literally in jail because there’s a line at the photocopier,” she said.

The ACLU is challenging Michigan’s policy of allowing faith-based adoption agencies that accept public funds to turn away same-sex couples.

The lawsuit says the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is violating its own contracts with those agencies, which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. It also says the department’s policy violates First Amendment and equal protection rights in the U.S. constitution.

Kristy Dumont and her wife say they were turned away by two Catholic adoption agencies when they tried to adopt.

Voters might have the chance to decide a pair of workers’ rights questions next year.

A petition campaign to require businesses to offer employees paid sick and family leave has launched its signature-gathering drive. On the same day, a state elections board approved the form of a campaign to increase the state minimum wage to $12 an hour, which plans to start gathering names next month.

The minimum wage campaign would also require employers pay the $12 an hour even to workers who count tips as part of their earnings.

Michigan’s energy chief says Enbridge downplayed the significance of damage to the protective coating on its oil and gas pipeline that runs under the Mackinac Straits.

Parts of the coating were removed while workers installed safety anchors on a portion of Line 5 that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The patches where the metal was scraped bare are close to a foot in diameter. That's much larger than Enbridge initially reported.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is backing changes to how counties deal with the property of people who’ve died. That's after news reports outlined how some attorneys appointed by the attorney general’s office to deal with unclaimed property have abused the process. They’ve taken control of property before families have filed with the local probate court, and charge large fees to sell and administer the property.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen faced members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today. The committee held a hearing on Larsen’s nomination to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. 

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island,,said he’s concerned that a right-leaning group funded a media campaign to win support for Larsen’s nomination.

“What did they think they were going to get for their investment in your candidacy for this court, Miss Larsen. Why would they be spending this money if they did not see some return?”

The state is ordering Enbridge Energy to take swift action to fix portions of the Line 5 energy pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

Enbridge reported to the state that small portions of enamel coating were accidentally removed in two places. The coating protects the oil and gas line that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac from corrosion.

Melody Kindraka of the state Department of Environmental Quality says there’s no immediate threat to the Great Lakes, but it’s concerning that the problem was the result of human error.

Wayne County’s prosecutor has until Monday to appeal a court ruling that allows a former state lawmaker to run for the Detroit City Council.

Former Senator Virgil Smith promised not to run for anything for five years as part of a plea deal.

Smith pleaded guilty to shooting his ex-wife’s car. A judge threw out part of the plea deal that said Smith can’t run for anything while he’s on probation.

Michigan needs more asbestos inspectors but doesn’t have the funding to pay for them, according to the Legislature’s auditor general.

The audit released today says the asbestos program has fallen behind in inspections and follow-up reports on projects that require asbestos removal, as well as whether the cancer-causing fire retardant is properly disposed of in landfills. In some cases, the reports were cursory.

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