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Michael Van Sickler, Tampa Bay Times

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, St. Petersburg City Hall and state government in Tallahassee. After a stint as assistant metro editor for the paper, he is now the government and politics editor.

Phone: (727) 580-9650.


Twitter: @MikeVanSickler

  1. Florida's legal losses up to $19 million and counting since 2011


    From Gary Fineout of the Associated Press:

    Florida's price tag for losing legal battles — which has included courtroom fights over drug testing, voting rights and gay marriage — continues to grow under Gov. Rick Scott.

    Scott recently agreed to pay $1.1 million to cover the legal bills of physicians and medical organizations in their successful challenge of a law that restricted doctors' ability to talk to patients about guns. The law had been pushed through the Florida Legislature at the urging of the National Rifle Association....

    This is getting expensive.
  2. Army Corps needs more time on Negron reservoir


    From the News Service of Florida's Jim Turner:

    Federal assistance may be on the way for the state's latest Everglades restoration effort.

    But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it will need another month to figure out how to join in Senate President Joe Negron's plan for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

    Col. Jason Kirk, the Florida commander for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, advised the South Florida Water Management District this week that a review is underway of options for working together on changes to what is known as the Central Everglades Planning Project. The changes were outlined in a measure (SB 10) that Negron pushed through the Legislature this year....

    Senate President Joe Negron is closely monitoring the progress of Senate Bill 10.
  3. Adam Putnam is crushin on the NRA


    Just in case anyone doesn't know it yet, Adam Putnam sure likes the NRA.

    As he continues to run for governor, Putnam is brandishing whatever right-wing credentials he can to scare away a challenge from the right from either U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis or House Speaker Richard Corcoran or anyone else.

    So what better way to do that than flaunt his gun cred. Last month, he had a mini-road tour to tout a reduction in application fees for concealed weapons, a permitting program that he oversees as Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture. ...

    Florida kind of looks like a gun, doesn't it?
  4. Gwen Graham gets endorsed by former congressional colleague


    Gwen Graham's two years in the U.S. House of Representatives paid off Tuesday. The only Democratic candidate running in the 2018 governor's race who served in Congress got the Democratic Whip, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, to endorse her.

    Not sure either Chris King or Andrew Gillum were holding out for this one, but Graham's campaign will certainly spin it as a win.

    Here's the announcement: ...

    U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer
  5. Zika cases continue to increase


    From the News Service of Florida:

    Florida has reported six additional cases of the Zika virus during the past week, bringing the total to 113 in 2017, according to numbers posted Monday on the state Department of Health website.

    The 113 cases were up from a total of 107 listed on the department website a week earlier. Of the new tally, 85 cases were classified as “travel related” -- meaning people were infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus elsewhere and brought it into the state....

    Aedes aegypti mosquitoes
  6. Absentee ballot fraud case fizzles in Palm Beach County


    We hear a lot about voter fraud, and many concerns about its threat to democracy are unwarranted.

    But in Florida, at least, absentee ballots have always posed a bona fide threat....

    Palm Beach County State Attorney David Aronberg
  7. Opinions across Florida: Trump's immigration policy goes too far


    DRACONIAN: President Donald Trump's immigration policy includes "draconian measures" that tear families apart, according to a Palm Beach Post editorial. Recent deportations and detentions ensnared locals like Francisco Javier Gonzalez, the manager of a pizza restaurant in Palm Beach, Victor Chavez and his wife Matias Carillo, Jupiter business owners who have a 13-year-old son, and Gloriana Gonzalez, a Riveria Beach woman who reported a theft in May, only to alert police to her boyfriend, Milton Perez Gabriel, who was detained because he was an undocumented Guatemalan laborer. Later, Gonzalez, a 43-year-old Venezuelan woman with a master's degree, was detained after a fender bender because her visa had expired. "It would be nice if local law enforcement decided their resources are best used to aid their residents rather than a harsh deportation policy," the editorial stated. "That they won't call ICE if they encounter an immigrant here illegally who seems non-threatening and doesn' have a criminal record."...

    Francisco Javier Gonzalez and family
  8. Guerilla activist James O'Keefe to keynote Palm Beach GOP dinner


    Remember ACORN? The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now was a consortium of progressive community-based organizations that advocated for low income and working class families. ACORN became the bête noire for conservatives in the 2008 presidential election, who linked Barack Obama's victory directly to the group. ...

    A booking photo provided by the U.S. Dept. of Justice shows James O'Keefe, then 25. O'Keefe was one of four people arrested by the FBI on  Jan. 26, 2010 and accused of trying to interfere with phones at Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in New Orleans. Charges were reduced to a misdemeanor and O'Keefe was sentenced to three years probation, a $1,500 fine and 100 hours of community service.
  9. Frank Brogan to retire as Pennsylvania's chancellor


    Nearly four years after he left his job as chancellor of Florida's state university system, Frank Brogan shocked Pennsylvania's state university system by announcing this week he'll retire Sept. 1. 

    According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Brogan informed the board of governors about his decision just before a report was to be released about a restructuring of the 105,000-student, 14-university system that Brogan manages. ...

    Frank Brogan is leaving his Pennsylvania job
  10. South Florida protesters keep up healthcare pressure on Rubio


    From the Miami Herald's Sydney Pereira:

    The Republican replacement bill for Obamacare seems dead, at least for now. Even so, protesters showed up Tuesday outside the Doral office of Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been firmly in the party’s repeal-and-replace camp.

    Despite the apparent victory for the Affordable Care Act supporters, many in the group of about 40 people said they remain concerned about the uncertainty of the ACA’s future — particularly the protections for people with preexisting conditions....

    Protesters outside Rubio's Doral office.
  11. NYT: Trump's voting commission like no other


    The New York Times' Michael Wines has an interesting story today about the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity

    He points out that of the other federal commissions on elections that have been convened since 2000, none of them have debuted under the legal cloud that this one has. Not only does it face a legal challenge in Florida from the ACLU and other groups, but Donald Trump's commission faces at least six other lawsuits, along with two more complaints against two of the commission's 12 members. ...

    This is not getting off to a good start
  12. Miami-Dade mayor says new rail lines are too costly


    From the Miami Herald's Douglas Hanks:

    Miami-Dade can’t afford to build more rail lines and should invest millions in transit dollars creating modernized express bus systems running north and south, Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Monday.

    “I look at this as part of my job: Be realistic, bring us down to earth,” Gimenez told members of a county transportation board. “I know there’s going to be push back. I know there’s going to be a lot of people who have different ideas about what we should do. But we’ve been looking at this for some time. And these numbers are real.”...

    Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez
  13. We're all Keynesians now: Curry unveils 'stimulus' for Jacksonville


    Jacksonville's proposed $1.2 billion "stimulus-style" budget is a "windfall the city hasn't seen since the economy soured late in the last decade, and that city leaders could have only dreamed of during the nadir of City Hall's financial struggles," according to the Florida Times-Union.

    The budget, among other things, includes 100 more cops, employee raises, 42 additional Jacksonville Fire and Rescue employees, $8 million for dormitories and a community field at Edward Waters College, $12 million for a backup communications center, and $1 million to retrofit five community pools....

    Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry
  14. Scott: Florida has no Zika outbreak areas, yet


    We're nearly a third of the way through summer, and so far at least, no Zika outbreaks.

    Last year, four people contracted the virus in late July when they were bit by mosquitoes in Miami, the first cases of it being locally transmitted in the U.S.

    Florida ended up with 1,093 cases of Zika picked up by those traveling abroad, with another 279 infected in Florida. ...

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott gives opening remarks at the Florida Department of Health's Zika Preparedness Planning Meeting in Miami on Monday. The Department of Health hosted the meeting with county health departments and mosquito control districts from across the state, as well as CDC officials, to discuss ongoing efforts to prepare for and combat the Zika virus.
  15. Caldwell, Grimsley raise more than $100,000 in June for AG commissioner race


    From the News Service of Florida:

    Preparing for a Republican primary in the race for agriculture commissioner, state Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, raised nearly $162,000 in June for his campaign and political committee, while Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, raised about $102,000, according to newly filed finance reports.

    Caldwell collected $123,049 for his campaign account and $38,500 for the committee “Friends of Matt Caldwell.” He had about $214,000 in cash on hand in his campaign account as of June 30 and about $617,000 available in the committee. Grimsley, meanwhile, raised $81,829 for her campaign account in June and $20,000 for her “Saving Florida's Heartland” political committee, according to the reports posted this week on the state Division of Elections website. Grimsley had $309,000 in cash on hand in her campaign account and nearly $420,000 available in the committee....

    Rep. Matt Caldwell