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. Attorney general candidates look past primary with eye toward Bondi

    State Roundup

    In the state attorney general race, Democrats still must choose between George Sheldon and Perry Thurston in the Aug. 26 primary.

    But nevermind that contest. For now at least, both candidates are focusing on the opponent who awaits — Attorney General Pam Bondi.

    Thurston, a state representative from Fort Lauderdale and the outgoing minority leader, on Tuesday launched a website: bondis bungles.com....

    Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi is unopposed in the Aug. 26 primary. The two Democrats vying to face her in the November general election lag far behind in campaign contributions.
  2. Dem rivals for AG reach consensus on Bondi bashing


    In the Florida Attorney General race, Democrats still must choose between George Sheldon and Perry Thurston in the Aug. 26 primary.

    But nevermind that contest. For now at least, both candidates are focusing on the opponent who awaits -- Attorney General Pam Bondi.

    On Tuesday, Thurston, who is the outgoing Minority Leader in the FLorida House as a representative from Fort Lauderdale, launched a new website: Bondi's Bungles....

  3. Tax records suggest Crist, Scott lag in charitable giving


    TALLAHASSEE — While Gov. Rick Scott and his Democratic rival Charlie Crist have waged a bitter public relations battle over the release of their tax returns, both sides have been mum about one aspect of the documents:

    They suggest that both candidates are philanthropic laggards compared with their well-heeled peers. The returns show no giving from Crist in recent years, and declining charity from Scott....

    Both Charlie Crist, left, and Gov. Rick Scott, right, are philanthropic laggards. [SCOTT KEELER | Times, left; AP photo, right]
  4. One-third of Florida Legislature faces no opposition at polls


    TALLAHASSEE — Millions of voters in Florida will get no vote in choosing who represents them in the Florida House and Senate next year. That's because the deadline for candidates expired at noon Friday with no challengers qualifying to run against a third of the state Legislature.

    The lack of opposition means candidates for eight state Senate seats — all incumbent Republicans — and 38 House seats, all but one an incumbent, automatically won their seats despite no ballots being cast in those districts. That will make 2014 even less competitive than 2012, when 24 percent of lawmakers ran unopposed....

  5. Gov. Scott signs bills on vouchers, guns and sports stadiums


    TALLAHASSEE — From pro sports to Pop-Tarts, Gov. Rick Scott signed dozens of new laws Friday, including two NRA-supported gun bills and an expansion of school vouchers.

    The voucher program, part of a 140-page education bill (SB 850), expands the use of tax credit scholarships so that low-income children can attend private schools. It was a priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and was supported by former Gov. Jeb Bush's think tank, the Foundation for Florida's Future....

  6. Ethics complaint filed on Scott's stake in oil drilling company


    An investment in a French oil services company that drills in Florida poses a conflict of interest for Gov. Rick Scott, according to a complaint filed with the Commission on Ethics on Tuesday by a Broward County activist.

    In the complaint, John Lundin alleges that Scott’s past $135,000 investment in Schlumberger LTD., once held in a blind trust, is grounds for a broader investigation into Scott’s portfolio. Lundin said he filed the complaint after reading about Scott’s investment in Schlumberger in the Times/Herald on Sunday....

  7. Scott signs 94 bills into law, including measures restricting abortion, charities


    TALLAHASSEE — Florida became the latest Republican-controlled state to pass new restrictions on abortion on Friday as Gov. Rick Scott signed 94 bills covering a wide range of topics.

    House Bill 1047 bans abortions once a fetus is considered viable, which is typically at 23 weeks of gestation. The new law, which passed with a partisan vote in the Legislature, replaces Florida's existing ban on abortions starting in the third trimester, which is about two weeks after the new standard....

     Florida Gov. Rick Scott, smiles while talking to a panel of students and their parents during a round table discussion of skyrocketing college costs Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at Jefferson High School in Tampa.
  8. Light vetoes predicted when Gov. Rick Scott signs Florida budget

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida Gov. Rick Scott's veto pen is looking more like a scalpel as signs point to him trimming a fraction of spending in a record-high $77.1 billion election-year budget.

    Scott is expected to sign the budget by Tuesday, and it will be an opportunity to express his fiscal values as he seeks a second term.

    His line-item vetoes are highly anticipated because Scott is running as a fiscal conservative and careful steward of tax dollars, but the budget on his desk is loaded with hundreds of millions in discretionary spending in every part of the state. Most projects were championed by Republicans whose support Scott will need on the campaign trail....

    Gov. Scott is expected to sign the $77.1 billion budget by Tuesday.
  9. Florida TaxWatch 'turkey' hunt targets Tampa Bay projects

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida TaxWatch released its annual list of budget "turkeys" on Friday, flagging $120 million in spending the group says was included by lawmakers without the proper public vetting, including large projects in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties.

    Hillsborough County had 12 projects dubbed turkeys, including $12 million for a large crane at the Port of Tampa Bay, $5 million for a new building at the University of South Florida's Morsani College of Medicine, $3 million for the Florida Conservation and Technology Center in Apollo Beach and $2.5 million for the Museum of Science and Industry....

    Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said the turkey list has become meaningless.
  10. Hillsborough leads the way in Florida TaxWatch's "turkey" hunt


    Florida TaxWatch released its annual list of budget “turkeys” on Friday, flagging $120 million in spending the group says was included by lawmakers without the proper public vetting, including large projects in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Miami-Dade and Pasco counties.

    Hillsborough County had 12 projects flagged: $12 million on the Port of Tampa Bay’s Gantry Crane; $5 million on the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine; $3 million for the Florida Conservation and Technology Center in Apollo Beach; and $2.5 million for the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)....

  11. 'Warning shot' bill gets new critic in Florida lawmaker who drafted 'stand your ground'

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — An architect of Florida's 2005 "stand your ground" law says a bill passed by lawmakers this session is too confusing and could prevent people in their homes or vehicles from legally defending themselves.

    "Unfortunately, in attempting to improve this excellent law, HB 89 inadvertently creates ambiguities and potentially reduces important protections for Florida's citizens," said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs. ...

    Sen. David Simmons, the main drafter of the “stand your ground” law, says the “warning shot” bill is confusing.
  12. Does 'warning shot' bill weaken Florida's 'stand your ground' law?

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — When lawmakers passed the "warning shot" bill during the 2014 session, a key selling point was that it would prevent cases like that of Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a shot to ward off her estranged husband.

    But the 26-page bill, awaiting action by Gov. Rick Scott, not only wouldn't prevent future cases like Alexander's, it seems to shrink — not expand — the protections of Florida's "stand your ground" law. ...

    The word imminent was added in Rep. Matt Gaetz’s 24-page amendment.
  13. Auto manufacturers ask Scott to veto $750,000 tab in legal fight with car dealers


    Gov. Rick Scott won't have any shortage of line items to veto as he peruses the proposed $77.1 billion budget, which landed on his desk Tuesday.

    But a surefire leading candidate is $750,000 for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to "directly contract with appropriate counsel to defend the state in litigation related to the suit filed by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in the U.S. Distrct Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee (Case No. 4:08-cv-00555-MCR-CAS)."...

  14. After pill mill crackdown, heroin fills a void

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Just as prescription drug abuse appears to be on the wane, Florida — like the rest of the nation — is facing a new addiction crisis: heroin.

    The state's medical examiners reported 68 heroin deaths in the first half of 2013 — more than double from the same period in 2012, and nearly four times higher than 2011, according to a soon-to-be released report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement....

    Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi — flanked by members of law enforcement and Gov. Rick Scott, right — talks about the state’s pill mill crisis during a March 2011 news conference.
  15. Bondi's fundraising continues to outpace Democrats


    Attorney General Pam Bondi isn't taking any chances.

    The Democrats haven't chosen who will face her in the fall, and she still raised nearly as much in April as her two would-be opponents -- George Sheldon and Perry Thurston -- have raised, combined, so far in the race.

    Bondi raised $276,520 in April, upping her total campaign contributions to $3,525,340 since she announced she was seeking reelection last summer. Of that total, Bondi has received nearly $700,000 in in-kind contributions, such as staff, most of which has been paid by the Republican Party of Florida. She's received about $2.8 million in cash. She's spent only $148,192 of that total....