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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

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  1. As U.S. Sugar flexes muscle, Amendment 1 supporters fret about less money for land purchases

    Legislature

    TALLAHASSEE — Supporters of Amendment 1, an environmental ballot measure that passed last year with a resounding 75 percent of the vote, are bracing for a legal battle with legislators over how to spend a $740 million windfall.

    The showdown looms with less than a week left in the regular 2015 session. Lawmakers have set aside no more than $20 million next year for Florida Forever, the state's public land acquisition program. Environmentalists had expected at least $300 million when the ballot measure passed less than six months ago....

  2. As U.S. Sugar flexes muscle, environmentalists fret about Amendment 1

    Blog

    Stuck in limbo because of the stalemate over Medicaid expansion, environmentalists face increasingly long odds that state lawmakers will raise spending on purchasing land for preservation and conservation, setting the stage for a possible legal battle.

    Lawmakers have only a week left in the 2015 legislative session and are giving little indication they will budge much from their initial offers last month to provide less than $20 million for land buys....

  3. Meet the Arizona doctor House Republicans like to quote

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Dr. Jason Fodeman may not be a household name in Florida.

    But he's a big deal in the Florida House, where Republicans are opposing the expansion of Medicaid.

    During a closed-door meeting Tuesday, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, distributed a guide to Republican members designed to bolster their argument against Medicaid expansion that included one of Fodeman's op-ed pieces....

  4. Gov. Rick Scott calls for special session, says tax cuts may be sacrificed to end stalemate

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Blaming the federal government for Florida's financial woes, Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday said he was prepared to call Florida lawmakers back for a special session to complete the budget — and even encourage them to pass a bare-bones budget if necessary.

    Scott also suggested one of his top priorities was in jeopardy: $673 million in tax cuts.

    "If (lawmakers) fail to cut taxes in this legislative session, it is clear that cutting taxes by more than $1 billion will become the top priority for next year's legislative session when there is no longer any uncertainty around health care funding, which is already over 40 percent of our state's $77 billion budget," he said in a statement....

    Gov. Scott says his tax cuts are in jeopardy.
  5. Meet the doctor who is providing House Republicans their anti-Medicaid talking points

    Blog

    In the “history lesson” that House Republican leaders gave to their members on Tuesday, they handed out a resource guide that they could refer to in the coming weeks to bolster their position to oppose Medicaid expansion.

    Included in the packet was an article written by Jason Fodeman, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Arizona.

    Why Fodeman?...

  6. House GOP How-to-Guide on Talking about Medicaid Expansion

    Blog

    To hold a meeting among House Republicans in private to discuss Medicaid expansion and the Low Income Pool on Tuesday, Speaker Steve Crisafulli said the meeting was for informational purposes only.

    “It was strictly a history lesson for our members,” Crisafulli said. “It was important for us to do it.”

    Yet the 20-page packet distributed to members during the secret meeting makes poor history. It’s more of a nine-step guide on how to defend the House’s double-down rejection of Medicaid expansion....

  7. How reporters covered that super secret House GOP meeting on Medicaid

    Blog

    For more than an hour, House Republicans met to discuss Medicaid expansion and how it relates to the Low Income Pool, the two issues that have made the legislative session screech to a halt.

    But Republicans decided to ban the public from the meeting, claiming they wouldn't talk about pressing legislative matters.

    So reporters had to stand outside and wait for lawmakers to come out and recap what they couldn't discuss in public. Yes, this is Florida, which prides itself on its open meetings law. And yes, despite that pride, legislators can lock out the press so they can discuss matters like Medicaid expansion....

  8. House Republicans to meet Tuesday, public need not attend

    Blog

    House Republicans plan to meet Tuesday before the 11 a.m. regular floor session, but they won’t allow the public to attend.

    With the House and Senate at an impasse over what to do about Medicaid expansion, the Low Income Pool and the overall state budget, not everyone is pleased with the decision.

    “We have a crisis in this state and they don’t want us there,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation. “There’s nothing more important this session than Medicaid expansion, LIP and getting a budget passed, and they’re kicking us out.”...

  9. Tallahassee gift 'ban' no end for freebies

    Blog

    The chief advocate of a 2005 gift ban prohibiting Florida lawmakers from having meals, drinks and trips paid by special interests now has meals, drinks and trips indirectly paid by special interests.

    Sen. Tom Lee, who vowed that his ban would change the behavior of legislators, has received more in personal reimbursements from his political committee than any other state senator since 2013....

  10. Even after the gift ban and reform, freebies flow to Florida lawmakers

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The chief advocate of a 2005 gift ban prohibiting Florida lawmakers from having meals, drinks and trips paid by special interests now has meals, drinks and trips indirectly paid by special interests.

    Sen. Tom Lee, who vowed that his ban would change the behavior of legislators, has received more in personal reimbursements from his political committee than any other state senator since 2013....

    
  11. Florida Legislature heads toward special session because of Medicaid impasse

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Republican leaders said Wednesday that they won't approve a budget by the scheduled end of the legislative session in 15 days because of a showdown over Medicaid expansion.

    Asked by reporters if he agreed that it was already too late to meet their deadline, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said he did.

    "I would assume most likely we're looking at a special session," Crisafulli said. ...

    House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said the federal government has changed its position on Medicaid expansion.
  12. Florida House passes $690 million tax cut package

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Cellphone users, widows and widowers, college students and small businesses are among the latest pawns in a showdown over Medicaid expansion in Florida.

    On Thursday, the Florida House overwhelmingly passed a $690 million tax cut package that could save those groups money, but only if the Senate signs off on the plan.

    Senate leaders say that won't happen as long as negotiations remain stalled between the state and federal government over a $2.2 billion program that helps hospitals treat low income patients. In a compromise with the federal government, the Senate is proposing to restore those funds by expanding Medicaid, an idea that House Republicans oppose....

  13. Gaetz ignores examples of Kansas, Louisiana in making case for tax cuts

    Blog

    A main selling point in the Florida House’s proposed package of $690 million in tax cuts is the premise that they will pay dividends later.

    “When we have less taxes, we can grow the economy and have more revenue,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Fort Walton Beach Republican who chairs the House’s Finance & Tax Committee. On Wednesday during House discussion of the tax package, Gaetz credited last year’s cuts of more than $500 million with producing a budget surplus this year of more than $1 billion....

  14. Medicaid showdown threatens $690 million tax cut package

    Blog

    Cell phone users, widows and widowers, college students and small businesses are the latest pawns in a showdown over Medicaid expansion in Florida.

    On Thursday, the Florida House is expected to overwhelmingly pass a $690 million tax cut package that could save those groups money, but only if the Senate signs off on the plan.

    Senate leaders say that won’t happen as long as negotiations remain stalled between the state and federal government over a $2.2 billion program that helps hospitals treat low income patients. In a compromise with the federal government, the Senate is proposing to restore those funds by expanding Medicaid, which House Republicans oppose....

  15. The Buzz: Take hike for lobbyists' Gucci loafers? Just a joke

    State Roundup

    Perhaps inspired by Incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran's rousing speech last week, Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, filed an amendment that would increase the sales tax on Gucci loafers sold to lobbyists.

    "I will proudly declare war on all the special interests … all the Gucci-loafing, shoe-wearing special interests, powers-that-be, who are standing in that hallway (outside)," Corcoran said in his anti-Medicaid expansion monologue. "Come to war with us. I'll fight. And if it costs me my political career or yours, so be it."...