Michael Van Sickler, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Michael Van Sickler

Michael has been with the Tampa Bay Times since 2003. A Cleveland, Ohio, native, he graduated from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., and got his master's degree at the University of Florida. He has worked at the Ledger and the Palm Beach Post. For the Times, he has covered everything from mortgage fraud, growth and development in Tampa Bay, and St. Petersburg City Hall. He now covers state politics and government as part of the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau.

Phone: (850) 224-7263.

Email: mvansickler@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MikeVanSickler

  1. Budget negotiators big on cycling, BMX, down on SkyRise Miami


    From a multi-million dollar bike trail through Central Florida to creating a high-paying job at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, a broad array of local pet projects have been negotiated into the Legislature’s proposed budget.

    Fueled by a $1.2 billion surplus and an impulse to please constituencies in their districts in an election year, House and Senate lawmakers have reached so many accords that few major ticket items remain unresolved....

    The proposed Coast to Coast Connector trail.
  2. Representative issues statement after DUI arrest

    State Roundup

    State Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, was arrested Monday morning and charged with DUI, according to the Tallahassee police.

    Eagle, 30, was driving a black SUV about 1:50 a.m. after leaving a Taco Bell. A Tallahassee police officer noticed that the SUV turned left, striking a raised median, and turned back. It crossed into the intersection of Caliark Street and Tennessee Street, past the stop bar and waited at a red light....

    Lines here with mug of Dane Eagle
  3. Pension reform championed by conservatives running into trouble

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Few issues would seem to score higher among conservatives than public pension reform.

    Shrinking the defined benefits that public employees receive and steering them into private retirement plans has long been championed by groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the James Madison Institute and Americans for Prosperity, founded by billionaire libertarians David and Charles Koch....

  4. Updated: Rep. Dane Eagle among 41 booked in jail on Monday: Guess whose mug shot was last to be public?


    UPDATED at 4:39 p.m. with Rep. Eagle's booking mug.

    Here's a list of the 41 booked into Leon County Jail on Monday after getting arrested.

    Thirty are men, 11 are women. Fifteen are white or Hispanic. The rest are African-Americans.

    But only one doesn't have their photo published on the Leon County jail site for all the world to see....

    Booking mug for Rep. Dane Eagle.
  5. Rep. Dane Eagle, former Crist aide, arrested Monday for DUI


    Updated at 10:46 a.m. with Rep. Eagle statement:

    Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, was arrested Monday morning and charged with DUI, according to the Tallahassee police.

    Probable cause affidavit: Dane Eagle 

    Eagle, 30, was driving a black SUV at about 1:50 a.m. after leaving a Taco Bell on W. Tennessee Street. A Tallahassee police officer noticed that the SUV turned left, striking a raised median, and turned back. It crossed into the intersection of Caliark Street and Tennessee, past the stop bar and waited at a red light....

  6. Is Weatherford's pension overhaul resurrected?


    An Easter Miracle resurrected Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford’s efforts to reform the state’s Florida Retirement System.

    On Easter Sunday, the House State Affairs Committee filed a bill that combines HB 7173, which already passed the Appropriations Committee 16-10 and awaited a floor vote, and HB 7179, which hadn’t passed or been assigned a committee....

  7. Home projects like Clearwater Marine Aquarium already scoring as final negotiations on budget begin


    It’s a magical time for the budget season, when projects suddenly appear in the proposed budget, or, just as easily, vanish with nary an explanation.

    Monday was the first day when the House and Senate officially met to negotiate their proposed budgets, and they’re already pretty close. (Makes it hard to believe they haven’t already been meeting, amirite?)

    Out of a proposed spending of $75 billion, lawmakers have already agreed on $500 million in tax and fee cuts (they still need to figure out the shape of about $100 million), a $580 million to cover unfunded liabilities in the state’s Florida Retirement System, and $3 billion in reserves so we “don’t eat our seed corn,” said Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville....

  8. Growler bill pits Florida microbreweries against big-money beer interests

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida's Republican lawmakers frequently talk about creating a business-friendly climate. But Monday, the Senate Rules Committee voted 9-4 for a bill that would heavily restrict a burgeoning industry in Florida: craft breweries.

    What started as an effort by Florida microbreweries to sell beer to consumers in popular half-gallon "growler'' containers has morphed into a measure some say could put them out of business by strictly limiting retail operations....

    If the proposal limiting retail operations “were to pass, I am done,” says David Doble of the Tampa Bay Brewing Co.
  9. Senators want public to help pay for legal battle between car dealers and manufacturers


    TALLAHASSEE — Taxpayers may help foot the bill for a bitter legal battle between a consortium of the nation's largest auto manufacturers and Florida's local car dealerships.

    The dispute is over a 2008 Florida law that allows dealers to charge a higher retail rate for repairs in warranty and recall work. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers argues that the law steers undue profits to local dealerships at the expense of car producers and consumers. The group is trying to overturn the law in federal court....

  10. A curious champion for Senate President Don Gaetz's public records bill


    TALLAHASSEE — Senate President Don Gaetz made a public records bill one of his top priorities this session, only to see it stall in the Florida House.

    SB 1648, which passed the Senate last month, would make a number of technical fixes to current law to generally improve the public's access to records. But among the bill's chief beneficiaries are attorneys who specialize in public records lawsuits, a select group that includes the Senate president's son — Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach....

  11. A tale of two websites: While Sebelius is out of work, Panuccio keeps his job


    Two agency directors. Two launches of websites that failed miserably.

    On Thursday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius resigned after her five years on the job were marred by the troubled launch of HealthCare.gov, the website set up to enroll Americans in Pres. Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act....

  12. Florida House approves bills to further restrict abortion, protect fetuses

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Election-year politics and an assertive Republican majority passed two bills in the Florida House on Friday that are certain to score points with a conservative base.

    One bill would tighten the state's already restrictive abortion laws. A second would add penalties to anyone convicted of a crime if the act harms a fetus. Similar legislation passed the House last year but stalled in the Senate when abortion-rights advocates argued it was intended to create "personhood" rights for fetuses....

    Marlene O’Toole, R-Lady Lake
  13. Over sheriffs' objections, House approves bill to allow concealed weapons during emergencies

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Evacuations caused by hurricanes, toxic spills and riots could be grounds for people to conceal guns in public without a permit, according to a bill backed by the National Rifle Association that passed the Florida House 80-36 on Friday.

    "The bells of liberty are surely ringing throughout Florida today," said Rep. Heather Fitz­enhagen, R-Fort Myers, the bill sponsor. "We are making sure that no Floridian in lawful possession of a firearm must leave it behind while evacuating in an officially declared state of emergency."...

    Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri calls the bill “crazy, it’s absurd.”
  14. Pension reform has good day for Weatherford, but is it a last gasp?


    Despite indications of a difficult path ahead, pension reform continued to advance through the Legislature on Thursday, keeping the hopes alive for the man pushing it, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford.

    The Senate’s Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee approved SB 1114 by a 7-2 vote. Hours later, the House’s Appropriations Committee approved HB 7173 by a 16-10 party line vote....

  15. Senate's plan to reduce taxes on cable, cell phone at odds with House


    As lawmakers haggle over the budget in the final stretch of the session, they’ll be deciding whether cell phones deserve a tax break or TV producers, gym memberships and low income neighborhoods do.

    With about $500 million to offer in tax and fee breaks in next year's $75 billion budget, the House and Senate have already agreed on a major chunk: reducing about $395 million in vehicle registration fees....