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. Senators want public to help pay for legal battle between car dealers and manufacturers

    Legislature

    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....

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

    Legislature

    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....

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

    Blog

    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....

  4. 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
  5. 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.”
  6. Pension reform has good day for Weatherford, but is it a last gasp?

    Blog

    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....

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

    Blog

    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....

  8. Florida gaining on Georgia's pro-gun legislation

    Blog

    Look out Georgia.

    Under a bill backed by the National Rifle Association and other gun groups, riots could be the newest safe haven for those carrying firearms without a permit.

    HB 209, which is expected to be voted on Friday by the Florida House, would allow people with clean criminal backgrounds to conceal firearms without a permit during emergencies — including riots and civil unrest like the 1996 racial disturbances that rocked south St. Petersburg — declared by the governor or local officials....

  9. Florida House bill would allow carrying guns without a permit during riots

    Public Safety

    TALLAHASSEE — Under a bill backed by the National Rifle Association and other gun groups, riots could be the newest safe haven for those carrying firearms without a permit.

    HB 209, which is expected to be voted on Friday by the Florida House, would allow people with clean criminal backgrounds to conceal firearms without a permit during emergencies — including riots and civil unrest like the 1996 racial disturbances that rocked St. Petersburg — declared by the governor or local officials....

  10. With Senate help, Big Beer pushes back on craft brewers

    Blog

    Under a bill that passed the Senate’s Community Affairs Committee on Tuesday, craft brewers will finally be able to sell their concoctions in 64 ounce containers that are legal in 47 other states and popular for home consumption.

    Unfortunately, in exchange, the bill requires that before the specialty brewers can sell to their customers, they would first have to sell to distributors, who would then sell the beer back at a markup to the brewers, even if the beer never leaves the establishment....

  11. Senate advances bill to allow concealed guns during evacuations

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — A bill that allows legal gun owners to conceal their weapons without a permit during mandatory evacuations continued to gain support in the Senate Tuesday despite concerns from law enforcement.

    The Community Affairs Committee voted 8-1 to pass SB 296, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, that would remove any criminal penalties for those found carrying weapons in public without a permit during evacuations ordered by the governor....

  12. Despite CONNECT, Panuccio on verge of long-sought DEO confirmation

    Blog

    The man who presided over the troubled launch of Florida's $63 million CONNECT unemployment system  is just one step away from getting confirmed so he can keep his $141,000 job as the executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity....

  13. Legg explains why he opposed "warning shot" bill

    Blog

    Sen. LeggJohn Legg, R-Trinity, did something quite rare last week....

  14. Latvala no longer a lock to back compromise on Weatherford's pension reform

    Blog

    Pension reform showed its first visible signs of life in the House on Friday, as a compromise bill that would steer new hires away from the state’s guaranteed benefit system cleared its first committee, State Affairs, by a 11-6 vote....

  15. Today in Tallahassee: Five Things to Know

    Blog

    Well, it could have been a busy day in Tallahassee today, but both the House and Senate plowed through their Thursday agendas, passing a flurry of bills, including the proposed $75 billion budget. So, floor sessions that had been planned were scrapped. So here’s what’s left. Uh, it’s still kind of busy.

    -- The House Judiciary Committee will consider HB 1047,which would change the threshold for terminating a fetus. Currently, state law prohibits abortions after the 24th week of pregnancy. Under HB 1047, it would prohibit the abortions of fetuses that can survive outside of the womb through standard medical care....