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 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.

A judge says the state cannot reimburse private and parochial schools for any expenses, even if they’re the result of state mandates.

A provision in the state budget allows private and parochial schools to be reimbursed for state-required health and safety requirements. A legal challenge says that runs afoul of the state constitution, which bans direct or indirect public funding for private or parochial schools. 


The judge’s opinion says the ban is not religious discrimination.


Governor Rick Snyder has signed bills to create new business incentives in hopes of luring some very large employers to Michigan.

Snyder signed the three-bill package just hours before Foxconn, a major objective of Michigan economic development officials, announced its first U.S. plant would locate in Wisconsin. But state officials say Foxconn is not the only big company scouting for new U.S. locations.

The state of Michigan is dropping charges and arrest warrants against nearly 200 people accused of illegally collecting unemployment benefits.

The warrants were issued against people who never showed up for court hearings after they were accused of defrauding the unemployment system. In many cases, the accused never knew they were charged with a crime.

The Michigan Talent Investment Agency asked for the arrest warrants to be dismissed because there’s a good chance the people accused actually didn’t do anything wrong.

A doctor from Saginaw Township is the first candidate for governor to file petition signatures to appear on the ballot next year.

Doctor Jim Hines filed more than 22,000 signatures to appear on the August 2018 Republican primary ballot. It takes 15,000 signatures to qualify. The petitions must still be checked and certified by elections officials.

Hines says he’s a fan of President Trump and Governor Rick Snyder, who were also political novices when they first ran for their jobs.

Negotiations will continue through the summer on legislation to change the rules on how child custody is determined in divorces.

State Rep. Jim Runestad’s (R-White Lake) bill would make equal custody the default position in divorces. He says, right now, judges have too much discretion and the proof of that is wide disparities between counties in how custody is granted.

“It’s a horrible, horrible system for kids and it’s got to change,” he says.

Runestad says the current system invites conflict between parents vying to win custody.

The state of Michigan has scrapped a risk study on Enbridge’s Line 5 and fired the contractor just a week before a first draft of the report was to be released.

A group marched on Governor Rick Snyder’s office Tuesday to call for faster work fixing Flint’s water system.

About 50 demonstrators delivered more than 11 hundred empty water bottles with messages from Flint residents curled inside each one.

Nayyirah Shariff with the group Flint Rising led the march. She says the demands include picking up the pace of replacing lead pipes, and a moratorium on city water bills until the work is done. Shariff says the process of replacing the water pipes should not take years.

Enbridge Energy says it’s pressure testing the structural integrity of Line Five beneath the Straits of Mackinac. The company says the results appear to show the oil and gas pipeline does not pose a serious threat to the Great Lakes.

The company tested the first of two underwater pipes over the weekend.

There’s no end yet to the standoff between Governor Rick Snyder and the Legislature’s Republican leaders that’s delayed wrapping up the state budget. But they are talking again.


  A state House committee has adopted bills that would require local officials to help enforce federal immigration laws.


State lawmakers say they will look into reports the Michigan agency that handles child abuse and neglect cases fudged its numbers to make it appear it was complying with a court order.