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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. He's now assistant metro editor for the paper.

Phone: (727) 580-9650.


Twitter: @MikeVanSickler

  1. As technical difficulties with Florida's unemployment system persist, state seeks more money

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Typically, when an agency chief cuts the number of employees, the state saves money.

    Not so with Jesse Panuccio, whom Gov. Rick Scott appointed to head the state's Department of Economic Opportunity. He came to lawmakers this spring seeking an extra $6.5 million to reduce the number of employees manning call centers and processing unemployment claims.

    "So increased funding is going to allow you to decrease staffing?" said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater....

    Jesse Panuccio head of the DEO, requested $6.5 million to help fix CONNECT.
  2. Corcoran and Lee meet all day to discuss budget, but provide few details


    The Legislature’s two budget chiefs met all day Wednesday to discuss ways to compromise on the impasse on Medicaid expansion, but don’t expect any breakthroughs, at least not yet.

    House Appropriations Chair Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes said Wednesday’s meeting in the Capitol with Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, was “super productive.”

    But he also said it was “too early to say” when asked what, if any, common ground was reached. Lee and the Senate want to use federal Medicaid money to expand healthcare coverage; Corcoran and the House oppose that plan. That disagreement has held up a wider agreement on the state’s $80 billion budget. Lawmakers are scheduled to meet in the first three weeks of June during a special session to approve a budget. State government isn't threatened with running out of money until July 1, when the new budget year begins....

  3. Rick Scott employs gangster (metaphor) to make a point


    SopranosEvery time Tony Soprano thinks his name won’t be invoked by Gov. Rick Scott as a metaphor for bullying by the federal government on Medicaid expansion, Scott pulls him back in....

  4. Adventures in campaign finance reports with Rep. Daphne Campbell


    "By the book" is one way no one has ever described Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami.

    In prior years, her record keeping has drawn the attention of the IRS and the Florida Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

    So perhaps it was only a matter of time before Campbell's campaign finance reports started waving some hard-to-miss red flags....

  5. In pursuit of $120 million contract, Alico takes state lawmakers for a copter ride


    This is a story about how to get things done in Tallahassee. Usually, it takes cash. Sometimes, it also takes a helicopter.

    Last year, a South Florida water agency ran out of money for a program that pays ranchers to hold back excess rainwater from filling up Lake Okeechobee too fast, a practice known as water farming. A major agriculture corporation, Alico, asked the Legislature to instead use state taxpayer money to keep the project rolling....

  6. Legislators approve water farming funding after copter rides, donations


    This is a story about how to get things done in Tallahassee. Usually, it takes cash. Sometimes, it also takes a helicopter.

    Last year, a South Florida water agency ran out of money for a program that pays ranchers to hold back excess rainwater from filling up Lake Okeechobee too fast, a practice known as water farming. A major agriculture corporation, Alico, asked the Legislature to instead use state taxpayer money to keep the project rolling....

    GOP Reps. Bill Galvano, left, Tom Lee and Dana Young were all given helicopter tours of the water farming process by Alico, which then contributed to the PACs.
  7. State still struggling to recoup losses from Poe insurance collapse

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — A Leon County jury on Friday cleared the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche of any liability in the collapse of Tampa's Poe Insurance Group, setting back state efforts to recoup more than $850 million in losses stemming from a flurry of hurricanes in 2004 and 2005.

    The Florida Department of Financial Services sued Deloitte in 2010, alleging the firm either "willfully or negligently" ignored multiple "red flags" that indicated the looming insolvency of its client, a consortium of companies founded by former Tampa Mayor Bill Poe, who died last year....

  8. UPDATE: Matt Gaetz travels to Kentucky the day before Derby, but hey, it's OK says RPOF spokeswoman


    (8:03 p.m.UPDATE: Sarah Bascom, RPOF's interim spokeswoman, had no answers for us when we wrote this Friday afternoon. But after the blog posted, she contacted Gaetz, something we could not do, and was able to come up with this statement: "It is my understanding that Rep. Gaetz is traveling on his own dime and to meet personal friends of his from law school.  As I clearly stated to you numerous times this week, the RPOF, House Campaigns and Senate campaigns have no official events at the Derby.  Your claim that Rep. Gaetz is traveling on a fundraising trip are untrue.  To imply, as you did in your story otherwise, and to use my quote in that manner, is not only politically expedient it is simply untrue.")...

  9. Capitol Buzz: What to watch today in Tallahassee


    Technically, this would have been Day 60, The Final Day, Sine Die, of the 2015 legislative session. But most Senate and House leaders have long fled Tallahassee because of the budget impasse.

    So rather than the usual frenzied emotions that animate Tallahassee during a typical ending of session, today will be characterized by isolation, despair, and, perhaps, madness.

    But hark, there is a glimmer of activity that just might provide a way out of this morass....

    Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' is seen at a media preview of Sotheby's May 2012 Sales of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art.
  10. Capitol Buzz: What to watch today in Tallahassee


    This should be Day 59 of the 2015 legislative session. Ordinarily, lobbyists and lawmakers and activists would be scrambling to get their bills passed and their projects funded in the waning hours of session. But this year? Crickets.

    Crickets on a sunflower
  11. Medicaid expansion debacle a potential bonanza for House Democrats -- finally


    Robocalls. Rallies. Snarky social media comments that are on message.

    It's good to be a Florida House Democrat these days.

    Just six months ago, they were in the doldrums. They had lost six seats in the November elections and were facing an 81-39 disadvantage in the lower chamber. 

    But on Wednesday, the Democrats were in a more celebratory mood. The day before, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, told members to go home. The budget impasse was too broad to bridge because of the House's disagreement with the Senate on Medicaid expansion....

  12. Environmentalists urge House to do its job on Amendment 1


    Senate President Andy Gardiner isn't the only one asking the Florida House to come back and finish the Legislative session.

    The group who sponsored the environmental ballot measure that was supposed to steer more money next year into preservation and conservation is also getting on the House's case.

    Florida Water and Land Legacy, the sponsor committee of Amendment 1, urged the House to "finish the job" in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon....

  13. With Crisafulli gone, Senate passes his water bill


    Maybe House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, should have stuck around one more day.

    A day after Crisafulli ordered the House members home because of the budget impasse, the Senate passed his main priority, HB 7003, by a 39-1 vote. The bill, sponsored on the House side by Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, overhauls the state’s water policy and regulatory system. The bill made numerous revisions to the state’s oversight of water quality and quantity, including new action plans to protect natural springs that are impaired. It’s most controversial element, however, was easing regulations for landowners north of Lake Okeechobee. Rather than limiting their agricultural discharges via permits, it substitutes a new system that provides overall goals for landowners. Under the bill, agribusinesses and other landowners will be paid 75 percent of the costs in state or federal funds to implement “best management practices”, or BMPs to reduce pollution....

  14. Capitol Buzz: 5 things to watch today in Tallahassee


    It’s Day 58 of the Florida session, and the House has already gone home. Well, let’s not have that ruin the day. We still have the Senate here.  Here are five things to watch.

    * The Senate has more than two dozen local bills on its Wednesday calendar. One proposal would allow the state to issue as many as 15 temporary alcoholic beverage permits to nonprofit organizations in Pinellas County (HB 1337)....

  15. The Buzz Help Guide to What Just Happened


    It's no longer a debatable claim to say that the 2015 legislative session has ventured into uncharted territory.

    The session jumped off the rails at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday when Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, told his 119 colleagues in the lower chamber that they were done and could go back home three days before Friday's scheduled end date. The Senate, caught off guard, now plans to finish up Wednesday....