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 U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear seven same-sex marriage cases. And that leaves the fate of Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban with the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

A decision from the Sixth Circuit could come at any time. The case was argued in August. Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee are also waiting on the ruling. A decision to uphold same-sex marriage bans in those states and Michigan would create a conflict between different circuits that could land the case before the Supreme Court.

The state of Michigan owns public parks, roads, buildings, and even some historic artifacts. Among those artifacts are the original architectural drawings of the World Trade Center.

This is a story of how the state of Michigan – its taxpayers – came to own the works.

Thousands of people visit the 9-11 Memorial in New York every day.

Children play by the fountain that surrounds the footprint of what once were the world’s tallest buildings. Some people take the time to read at least some of the names of the people who died here on 9-11.

Democrats in the Legislature say women should get 90 days' advance warning if their employers are about to drop contraception coverage from company-provided insurance policies.

The legislation is a response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case. The court said business owners don’t have to cover contraception if they have a sincere moral objection.

State Rep. Gretchen Driskell, D-Saline, says women deserve time to make other arrangements if that’s the case. She says birth control drugs have more medical uses than just stopping pregnancies.

The Michigan Treasury is working on a plan to let local governments use the state’s system to collect income taxes.

The idea was hatched initially to help Detroit recoup about $140 million in uncollected income taxes from people who live in the city, but work in the suburbs, says Governor Rick Snyder. 

“We were looking originally at doing it with Detroit, but as governor of Michigan, I want to look at it and say, how do we provide service across our state? So it could be for other communities, if they want to,” he said.

 “This is Rich Baird ... " was the opening of the voice mail message left by Gov. Rick Snyder’s right-hand man and “transformation manager,” Rich Baird. The message was for union leader Carla Swift. And after that intro, it got nasty.

“I didn’t figure you would pick up on this call. It would take courage to talk to me face-to-face. Um, number one, you’d better be careful. I may be suing you …”

The voice mail from Baird is a response to a column that appeared last weekend in the Detroit Free Press, where Swift said Baird and other members of the Snyder administration play by their own set of rules.

Back to Baird’s voice mail: “I am sick and tired of you people and your unbased attacks. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

It seems it’s not possible for an election campaign season to glide by without a debate over debates -- the one-upsmanship between various campaigns about who’s more willing to throw themselves open for an adversarial Q and A rife with drama and wonkiness.

Historically, the most memorable moments of debates are the human ones -- Governor Sarah Palin in the 2008 Vice Presidential debate asking then- Senator Joe Biden, “Can I call you Joe?” or Governor Rick Perry’s famous, fatal stumble in the Republican presidential debate in 2012 at Oakland University, forcing an embarrassing “oops” after he forgot the three federal departments he’d eliminate.

The public says it wants debates. Candidates say they’re anxious to debate. But in Michigan, so far, in 2014, we haven’t seen any debates scheduled in either the race for U.S. Senate or governor.

Democratic Senate nominee Gary Peters is certainly trying to make hay over the absence of debates. It plays into the Democrats’ narrative that Republican Terri Lynn Land is unprepared for the job. Mark Schauer, Democratic nominee for governor, is also pushing to share a stage with Gov. Rick Snyder.

Republicans and Democrats in Michigan will gather this weekend at party conventions to nominate candidates for statewide offices.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Attorney General Bill Schuette are expected to be nominated for second terms at the state Republican convention in Novi.      

But it looks like there will be a fight over lieutenant governor. Gov. Rick Snyder wants the convention to renominate Brian Calley. But Tea Party activist Wes Nakagiri wants to deny Snyder his choice.

State GOP chairman Bobby Schostak says Calley appears to have the edge going into Saturday’s convention.

“I think that overall Brian Calley has been working very hard across the state to get the message across that he deserves to continue to be the lieutenant governor, and it’s going to be very hard to beat him,” says Schostak.

Democrats are meeting in Lansing this weekend. Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown is Mark Schauer’s choice for a running mate. Democrats are also expected to nominate Mark Totten for attorney general, and Godfrey Dillard for secretary of state.

The parties will also nominate candidates for the state Supreme Court and education boards. 

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has agreed with an official finding that the Benton Harbor school district in west Michigan is in a financial crisis. But the governor says he thinks the state can make an arrangement with the district that avoids a takeover.

“In Benton Harbor’s case, Benton Harbor schools, there’s a good possibility we could have a consent agreement. The school board seems very interested in that, the superintendent, so we’re working through that.”

Democratic candidate Mark Schauer says he would come up with a road funding solution where Governor Rick Snyder and the Republicans failed. Schauer did not give specifics, but said he would do it without raising fuel taxes. It was part of an economic platform he outlined today.

It also includes boosting the state’s renewable energy, repealing the right to work law, and restoring the tax break for pension income.

Schauer said his economic plan would create tens of thousands of new jobs.

“By rebuilding our infrastructure, raising our renewable energy standard, tough ‘buy Michigan’ standards, by cutting taxes to retirees and working families,” Schauer said, “I think tens of thousands is a conservative estimate.”

Schauer said he would also ban for-profit charter schools and rely less on outside contracts for state services.

Governor Snyder says his policies are at least partly responsible for 250,000 new private sector jobs since he took office.

 There are some big stakes in the primary elections less than two weeks away, and fierce fights over congressional and legislative nominations are getting a lot of attention.

Not that it’s likely to boost what is usually anemic turnout in the primaries, and that’s despite the reality that most seats are so firmly partisan that the primary is actually the decisive election that really determines who goes to Lansing or Washington.

Like other politicos, we’ve paid a lot of attention to the face-off between the Republican establishment and the GOP’s Tea Party wing. And while that fight is playing out in some state House and Senate races, and some big Congressional races, it’s also playing out locally. Very locally.

We’re talking about the humble precinct delegate.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and the state Department of Environmental Quality have sent a warning letter to Enbridge Energy. It says the company has to do a better job of securing an oil pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac.

“We just want to make sure that this pipeline’s going to be safe," said Dan Wyant, director of the DEQ. He says a leak in the pipeline would have implications throughout the Great Lakes.

“A lot of concern about this pipeline. Sixty years it’s been safe, but we’re in a position, Attorney General Schuette, I as the chief environmental officer of this state, to ensure we don’t have a problem on this pipeline,” he said.

Enbridge quickly responded it would add more anchors to its pipeline. Four years ago, a break in an Enbridge pipe dumped about a million of gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River.

An association of non-union construction companies has asked the state Supreme Court to strike down local prevailing wage laws. The Associated Builders and Contractors says a state law preempts the ordinances.

Nearly two dozen Michigan communities have their own prevailing wage ordinances. They’re supposed to ensure that workers on city-financed projects are paid something close to union wages.