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

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.

A group of gun control advocates was at the state Capitol to lobby against a proposal to allow people to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

               

A bottled water company wants to speed up the pace of its business. Nestle is asking the state for permission to pump more water from the Muskegon River watershed.

The company has already started construction to upgrade its water bottling plant in Mecosta County.

Environmental groups are asking the state Department of Environmental Quality to slow down the approval process.

Jeff Ostahowski is with the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation.

A citizens group wants to change how political boundaries are drawn in Michigan. Right now, the Legislature draws new lines for legislative and congressional districts every 10 years following the Census.

John Hanieski is an economist who says, right now, the numbers don’t add up. He says the state is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. But he says the GOP wins a lot more seats. 

He says the current system allows lawmakers to put their interests ahead of their constituents.

A former sports medicine doctor for Michigan State University and the U.S. Olympics gymnastics team faces another 22 felony charges of sexually assaulting his patients.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced the new charges today. He says five of the charges are related to victims who were younger than 13 years old.

“I cannot imagine the heartbreak, and the anger, and the heartache experienced by parents who took their child to a physician, seeking help, who then sexually assaulted their daughter,” Schuette said.

A survey of local officials across the state finds wide interest in overhauling Michigan’s emergency manager law.       

The survey of officials from 1,300 cities, counties, townships, and villages was conducted by the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy.

There was no consensus on what to about financially struggling local governments, says survey director Tom Ivacko. But he says says there was general agreement that emergency managers have too much power.

A federal appeals court says the Jackson County Commission regularly violated the U.S. Constitution by opening its meetings with a Christian prayer.

In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held the commission violated the Establishment Clause.  The Establishment Clause says government bodies cannot favor one religion over others.

Michigan’s elections chief says it appears there were 31 instances of people casting two ballots in the 2016 election, but it doesn’t seem to have changed any results. That was the finding of audits of the election results, as well as a separate inquiry into ballot irregularities in Detroit.

There could soon be tighter restrictions on the public’s access to information in bids for state business. A state Senate committee has adopted a bill that would shield information on bidders’ trade secrets and finances.

State Senator Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) says the Freedom of Information Act discourages businesses from bidding on government work. Jones says his bill matches a standard used in 42 other states and by the federal government to protect confidential information.

The state Senate has adopted a criminal justice overhaul that aims to improve public safety by sending fewer people to prison. The 21 bills passed with almost unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats.

While crime and the number of prisoners is on its way down, state Senator John Proos (R-St. Joseph) says the state can do better. He says the key is making sure inmates succeed once they are released.

Michigan and Louisiana are the only two states that don’t apply their public records laws to the legislature and the governor’s office. A bipartisan group of Michigan lawmakers have rolled out bills to change that.

Michigan is ranked among the worst states in the country when it comes to government ethics and access laws.

Governor Rick Snyder says he’s trying to learn more about President Trump’s executive order on immigration. But he says it’s the start of a national discussion on the subject. Snyder says he is reaching to other governors and the Trump administration to better understand the order and its effects.

  

The governor released a statement this morning while he is overseas on a trip to Israel.

  

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley is in charge while the governor’s away. He says criticism of the order is overblown.

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