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

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.


Trust "Tru" Katsande / Unsplash

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.

Rick Pluta

State Representative Larry Inman returned to the state Capitol in Lansing on Tuesday. It was the first time he attended a House session since his colleagues adopted a formal request for Inman to resign as he faces federal bribery and extortion charges. It’s alleged he tried to trade votes for campaign donations.  

An attorney says she should not have to join the State Bar of Michigan in order to practice law, and she's filed a lawsuit to strike down the requirement.

The school year is about to begin in Michigan without contracts between many districts and teachers. That’s because the state Legislature has not adopted a K-12 schools budget to let school boards and teachers unions know how much money they’ll have to work with.

The embattled director of the Michigan Civil Rights Department has taken a leave of absence. That’s after Agustin Arbulu resisted calls for him to resign amid findings of misconduct and the Michigan Civil Rights Commission refused to fire him.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson are asking a federal judge to toss a challenge the state’s new redistricting law.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer toured an elementary school in Flint Monday to call attention to the fact that schools have started their academic year, but they don’t know how much financial support to expect from the state.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has barred embattled Michigan Civil Rights Department Director Agustin Arbulu. Whitmer says it’s time for Arbulu to be fired for “unacceptable conduct.”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she would support a “red flag” law to allow law enforcement to seize firearms from someone who is deemed a risk.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer watches as road expert explains damage to bridge infrastructure.
Rick Pluta

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has again called on Republican leaders to reconvene the Legislature to wrap up work on a new state budget and a plan to fix the roads. But GOP leaders say there’s no reason yet.

Ballard Marine Construction

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says she’s ready to go to court to force Enbridge to shut down a pipeline, Line 5, that moves oil and gas on a route that runs through the Straits of Mackinac. That’s if the energy company and the state don’t reach a deal by the end of June.

But Nessel says it also sets a deadline for negotiations on the future of the pipeline.

Julie Viken / Pexels

The fight over abortion rights has resumed in the state Legislature. A state House committee opened hearings Wednesday on legislation to ban the dilation-and-evacuation abortion procedure.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer wants to re-organize the department that enforces environmental rules. Senate Republicans are opposed to the Democrat’s executive order to do that.

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