Rick Pluta

MPRN Capitol Bureau Chief

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. 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.

Ways to Connect

Governor Gretchen Whitmer answers questions from reporters in Traverse City on October 9, 2020.
Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

Less stick. More carrot. That appears to be Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s approach now as Michigan wracks up some of the nation’s worst COVID-19 numbers. 


Michigan Executive Office of the Governor

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has doubled Michigan’s vaccination targets as the pace of COVID-19 related deaths has accelerated and the state leads the nation in per capita COVID cases.

The Republican-led Legislature voted Wednesday to send Governor Gretchen Whitmer a new round of COVID-19 response bills that are very similar to versions she’s already vetoed.

This is the latest episode in the ongoing the back-and-forth between Republicans and the Democratic governor over her use of emergency powers – and her ability to use them again in the future.

Republicans say the governor’s abused her authority and slowed the recovery from COVID. 

Office of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

It’s been one year since the first identified COVID-19 cases in Michigan.

There have been more than 601,000 confirmed cases in the state over the past 12 months, and more than 15,700 confirmed deaths from COVID.  

Office of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed two budget bills to fund the state’s COVID-19 response. But the bills also include line-item vetoes to the chagrin of Republicans and business groups.

Office of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is expected to formally throw her support behind legislation to add LGBTQ protections to Michigan’s civil rights law on Monday.

Historically, votes on similar bills have been blocked by GOP leaders.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson) is opposed. Another Republican State Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) said Friday on Michigan Public Television that he also has questions on protecting religious rights.

The Republican-controlled state Senate adopted a COVID-19 budget bill on Thursday over the objections of Democrats.

The bill includes money for schools, help for struggling businesses, and rent assistance.

But it also holds back some federal funds that could be used to bargain with Governor Gretchen Whitmer over COVID restrictions.

Former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield is out as the CEO of a Kalamazoo-area economic development organization.

He quit amid controversy over his opposition to adding LGBTQ protections to the state civil rights law as the House Republican leader.

A tree-killing pest has made its way into the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and its spread has state natural resources officials concerned.

The threat comes from the hemlock wooly adelgid, described as aphid-like creatures that are native to eastern Asia. They form small white masses on the underside of branches and make their way beneath the bark to feed off the sap.

Cheyna Roth / WKAR-MSU

On Wednesday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer again claimed the Legislature’s Republican leaders are failing to bargain on a COVID-19 plan for Michigan. The governor said GOP leaders have not engaged in serious discussions, even though Republicans and business groups have put forward their plans.

maxpixel

Michigan continued a trend last year of fewer felons returning to prison for committing new crimes for violating the terms of their parole. That’s according to the Michigan Department of Corrections’ tracking of parolees for three year after they’ve been released.

USFWS

Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg says she won’t challenge a decision from the state Court of Appeals. The ruling says Michigan judges cannot ban medical marijuana cardholders from using cannabis while they’re on probation.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer made a peace offering to Republicans in her third State of the State address on Wednesday night. That’s as Republicans have ramped up their resistance to her COVID-19 restrictions.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and state health officials say they are very concerned about a new variant of COVID-19 that’s been found in Michigan. And that could affect the course of the state’s response and the pace of re-opening more schools, sports, and businesses.

Steve Carmody

A deadlock on the Michigan Supreme Court has effectively reversed a ban on any taxpayer funds going to private and religious schools. The decision allows state funds to go toward helping schools comply with health and safety mandates.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Updated 12/21/2020 10:30 a.m.

The Michigan House has approved a COVID-19 relief bill that includes a pay boost for workers on the front lines of dealing with COVID-19; funding for vaccine distribution; and extending unemployment benefits. There’s also money to help small businesses that have been hurt by the continuing health crisis. The bill now goes to Governor Gretchen Whitmer for her signature.  


State Representative Gary Eisen (R-St. Clair).
GOPHouse.org

A Republican state lawmaker has been disciplined by his party’s leadership. That’s after state Representative Gary Eisen (R-St. Clair Township) refused in a radio interview to denounce the possibility of violence during Monday’s Michigan Electoral College vote for President-elect Joe Biden.

Maxim Jenkins / WKAR-MSU

On Monday, Michigan’s 16 electoral votes will be formally awarded to President-elect Joe Biden in a ceremony at the state Capitol. Other US states and territories also convene their electoral colleges today.

State Representative Cynthia Johnson (D-Detroit) has been punished by House Republican leaders for a Facebook video in which she appears to threaten supporters of President Donald Trump.

Steve Ioya / Flickr

A group of Christian high schools claims Michigan’s COVID-19 restrictions violate religious freedom rights. The schools have filed a federal lawsuit in west Michigan to block the continuation of the restrictions.

On Monday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced an extension of the restrictions put in place three weeks ago.
Michigan Executive Office of the Governor

Citing continuing concerns about hospital capacity and “alarmingly high” death rates, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced a 12-day extension of the COVID-19 restrictions initially put in place three weeks ago.

Michigan Board of State Canvassers

A bipartisan state board has certified the results of the November 3 general election and awarded the state’s 16 electoral votes to President-elect Joe Biden.

The Michigan attorney general’s office responded Wednesday to a legal filing asking the state Supreme Court to block certification of the November 3 election.

The lawsuit was filed by poll challengers working for President Donald Trump’s campaign.

The state’s response can be summarized as: the election’s over and the ballots are counted.

The Michigan Court of Appeals says certifying the state’s election results will go ahead. The court rejected an emergency motion from Republican challengers unhappy with Election Day vote counting.

Republican poll challengers asked the court to stop the certification of the votes in Wayne County. Because Wayne has the most voters, that would essentially slow or stop certifying the statewide results.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

Starting Wednesday, restaurants in Michigan are again limited to delivery and takeout, high school and college classes can only be online, and non-professional sports games are cancelled. That’s under an order from Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s public health director.

Pages