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

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A lawsuit is challenging the rules ordered by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson for partisan poll challengers on Election Day. The complaint filed with the Michigan Court of Claims says distancing and face covering directives will make it too difficult for poll challengers to see what’s going on as voters are checked in at voting sites.

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

The legislative committee looking into the state’s COVID-19 response meets again Monday – where top health officials in Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration will face questions from lawmakers.

This will be the first committee hearing since the state Supreme Court struck down the governor’s continued use of emergency powers and encouraged the Legislature and Whitmer to strike a bargain.

MPRN

State and federal authorities have charged a group of 13 suspected terrorists in an alleged plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer and recruit militia members to storm the state Capitol.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the FBI announced the charges Thursday. They say the men wanted to overthrow the state government and incite a civil war.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The state Senate returns Thursday after the Michigan Supreme Court declared many of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 executive orders unconstitutional.

The state Senate returns Thursday after the Michigan Supreme Court declared many of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 executive orders unconstitutional.

First the Senate and then the House will meet on consecutive days to adopt their own plans and send them to Whitmer to sign or veto.

Linda Stephan / Interlochen Public Radio

Voting by absentee ballot began Thursday in Michigan.

Absentee ballots were put in the mail to people who requested them. Registered voters can also stop by clerks’ offices to fill out their ballots.

Don’t wait. Drop off your ballot in person. It’s too late to put it in the mail if you want it to be counted. That’s the advice elections officials are giving voters in advance of Tuesday’s primaries when a record number of votes will be cast via absentee ballot. 


A federal appeals court won’t give former Governor Rick Snyder a new hearing in a class action lawsuit over the Flint water crisis. That means the lawsuit filed against Snyder and former state Treasurer Andy Dillon can go forward.

Executive Office of the Governor

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has toughened the rules that require masks in public to slow the spread of COVID-19. Her latest Executive Order says businesses must deny service to people who refuse to wear masks indoors. It also says customers must remain at least six feet from others outdoors.  

Governor's Office

 

A new order signed Friday by Governor Gretchen Whitmer will soon allow Michiganders to get their hair cut or styled – as well as head to the gym or a movie theater – with certain precautions.

The restrictions will be lifted first in the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula starting Wednesday -- followed by southern Michigan starting June 15th.

In northern counties, indoor gatherings of 50 people will be permissible.

A Michigan Court of Appeals panel says a lower court judge got it wrong by refusing to enforce an order to shut down Owosso, Mich., barber Karl Manke, who gained fame or notoriety for cutting hair in defiance of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's COVID-19 emergency orders. The orders include a ban on barbers and hair salons doing business during the declared crisis.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer gives an update on Michigan's repsonse to the COVID-19 pandemic on April 6, 2020.
Michigan Executive Office of the Governor

The Legislature will meet Tuesday to vote on a resolution to extend the emergency powers Governor Gretchen Whitmer invoked to address the COVID-19 outbreak.

The House and the Senate have adopted special rules for in-person voting while adhering to health protections.


The Greenfields stepped out for a safe social distance interview at Veterans Memorial Park in Ann Arbor. Left to right: Heather, Jill, Sonja and Gregory Greenfield from left to right, with Allison Greenfield up front.
Rick Pluta / Michigan Public Radio Network

School officials in Michigan will have to make some tough decisions very soon about the rest of the school year. One of them is whether to send layoff notices to teachers and other school staff who aren’t working.

That would save money for later in case the school year is extend to make up for days lost due to the COVID-19 outbreak.


The state Department of Health and Human Services reports there are 11 new confirmed cases in Michigan. That brings the total number of known COVID-19 cases to 65.

The state is reporting new cases in Jackson, Leelanau and Otsego Counties.

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.
CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS

Update 3/16/20, 11:30 am: In addition to bars and restaurants, Gov. Whitmer’s executive order also closes gyms, spas and health clubs, casinos, as well as theaters and other performance venues across the state. Order restrictions will remain in place until Monday, March 30 at 11:59 pm.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will sign an executive order this morning that closes bars and restaurants in Michigan starting this afternoon. The emergency action is to help slow the spread of the new coronavirus. The ban will only apply to sit-down service.

Michigan.gov

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered public and private schools in Michigan to close as part of the state’s effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“In an abundance of caution, I am ordering the closure of all K-12 school buildings in Michigan for three weeks starting Monday, March 16th until Sunday, April 5th,” she said.

The number of presumptive positive COVID-19 cases in Michigan has spiked to 12 – and more are expected. Whitmer says K-12 schools are an obvious nexus where the virus can be spread.

STEVE CARMODY / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says she’s willing to investigate allegations of sex abuse leveled against a University of Michigan doctor.

But she set some conditions that would have to be met first.

Former UM students and athletes have stepped forward with claims of abuse by Dr. Robert Anderson, who died in 2008.

They also say UM failed to protect them from the abuse.

The attorney general says she’s willing to investigate to determine whether UM is culpable. But Nessel says she cannot do that unless UM agrees not to use the attorney-client privilege.

Michigan Public Radio Network

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden in Michigan’s March 10 presidential primary.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer addresses the media recently.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A federal court has struck down Michigan’s requirement that adults enrolled in the Healthy Michigan plan must be working or in school, but Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Legislature’s Republican leaders are at odds on what to do next.

Noelle Riley / Interlochen Public Radio

Democrats are turning to Michigan’ s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, to deliver the English language response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.

The choice highlights the central role Michigan and the industrial Midwest are expected to play in the presidential election this year.

Michigan Public Radio Network

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she’s ready to go-it-alone to come up with money to pay for road repairs. That’s if Republicans won’t support her proposal for a fuel tax increase.

That was the message Whitmer delivered in her second State of the State speech Wednesday night.


MPRN

The state Bureau of Elections has tossed out petitions and thousands of signatures seeking a recall election against state Representative Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg). The decision is based on two typos on the petition form.

Licensed mental health counselors in Michigan will be allowed to continue diagnosing and treating patients under a bill adopted Thursday by the state Senate. The bill is now in its way to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her to sign or veto.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake)
Rick Pluta / MPRN

The Legislature has sent a K-12 schools budget to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The bill was adopted with the support of Republicans and Democrats, but the budget has a lot less money then what the governor recommended for special education and at-risk students.

PICTURE ALLIANCE / GETTY IMAGES

Flavored vaping products will be banned in Michigan under emergency rules that were issued by the state Department of Health and Human Services Wednesday.

Brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers have 14 days to remove flavored vaping products from their inventories that are available to the public, accofding to the department.

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