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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. With water bill on verge of passing House, environmentalists look to Senate

    Blog

    Environmental groups sent alerts marked “URGENT” warning members about HB 7003 minutes before it was taken up Wednesday afternoon on the House floor.

    “With this bill, Florida legislators are protecting developers and Big Ag at the expense of the public,” said an e-mail blast from David Guest, managing attorney at the Florida office of Earthjustice....

    Rep. Matthew Caldwell
  2. Crisafulli pushes overhaul of state water policy, testing; $500 million plus in tax cuts

    Blog

    Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli stressed an overhaul of the state’s water policy, more than $500 million in tax cuts, and a revamp of the state’s student testing in his opening remarks to lawmakers on the 1st day of legislative session on Tuesday.

    A soft-spoken 43-year-old Merritt Island Republican, Crisafulli oversees a House chamber with a commanding 81-39 GOP advantage over Democrats. But his manner is modest, and has been viewed by some as more accommodating than his predecessors....

  3. FDOT construction boom headed your way

    Blog

    Never mind that Mapquest ranked Interstate 95 and Interstate 4 last out of 66 interstates in the U.S., or that driving in Tampa Bay, Orlando or Miami can be an endurance sport. 

    According to the Florida Transportation Commission, the nine-member board appointed by Gov. Rick Scott that oversees the Department of Transportation, things will get better out there on the roads and highways....

  4. State audit highly critical of Florida's unemployment system CONNECT

    Gubernatorial

    TALLAHASSEE — Ever since the troubled launch of the state's unemployment website in October 2013, Gov. Rick Scott and his team have staunchly defended the lifeline for hundreds of thousands of jobless Floridians.

    But on Friday, the state's auditor general issued a scathing 45-page audit that joins mounting evidence that CONNECT is a system in disarray.

    The audit found lapses that seemed to touch on every facet of CONNECT, which now costs $77 million, more than $14 million more than the previous estimate of the website....

  5. Audit blasts CONNECT, states it broke law

    Blog

    Gov. Rick Scott has repeatedly refused to answer questions about problems with Florida's unemployment claims system, CONNECT, since it launched in October 2013.

    But according to an audit released Friday by the state's Auditor General, there are a number of critical issues with CONNECT, which is now estimated to cost taxpayers $77.9 million.

    Chief among them is that the system broke Florida law by requiring its users to log in by using their Social Security Numbers, exposing them to an unnecessary risk. Florida law prohibits agencies from requiring SSNs if it's not imperative....

  6. Out of office, Weatherford lingers near the public stage

    Blog

    How does he do it all?

    Just last month, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, announced that he and his brothers Sam and Drew were opening a consulting company. The aptly-named Weatherford Partners would provide clients "with a broad range of business expertise and will invest capital directly into private companies with a strategic focus on Florida."...

    What will he do next?
  7. Overhaul of water policy on fast track in Florida House

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — A bill pushed by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam to overhaul the state's water management system won bipartisan approval Thursday from the House Appropriations committee.

    At nearly 100 pages, HB 7003 outlines numerous revisions to the state's management of water quality and quantity that supporters, including House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, say modernizes Florida's water policy to accommodate future growth....

  8. Overhaul of water policy on fast track in House, next stop: Floor vote

    Blog

    It’s a complicated bill that House Speaker Steve Crisafulli says will modernize Florida’s water policy.

    So far, at least, the nearly 100-page HB 7003 is finding little opposition in the House, easily passing the Appropriations Committee on Thursday with bipartisan support....

  9. Putnam vies for more control of state waterways

    Blog

    In another sign of frayed relations between the state's top Republican leaders, a tug of war is unfolding between Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam over arguably the state's most valuable commodity: water.

    Putnam is lobbying for a bill that would overhaul the state's water management, loosening rules on pollution in the northern part of Lake Okeechobee in favor of more lenient standards....

  10. Putnam looks to shift oversight of state water to his department — away from Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — In another sign of frayed relations between the state's top Republican leaders, a tug-of-war is unfolding between Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam over arguably the state's most valuable commodity: water.

    Putnam is lobbying for a bill that would overhaul the state's water management, loosening rules on pollution in the northern part of Lake Okeechobee....

    Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli also backs the bill.
  11. RPOF tees up fundraising-palooza day before session begins

    Blog

    RpofinvitephotoIf there's a Coachella festival for Florida GOP fundraising, it just might be the one March 2 at the Governor's Club....

  12. After loss to Pam Bondi, George Sheldon nabs fix-it job in Illinois

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — George Sheldon may have lost his bid for Florida attorney general last year to Pam Bondi, but his reputation as a Mr. Fix-It of troubled agencies is still intact.

    On Tuesday, he starts his new job as head of Illinois' Department of Children and Family Services, which has come under fire recently for revelations of violence at group juvenile care facilities, botched investigations into child deaths and mounting worker caseloads....

    George Sheldon is tasked with bringing order to Illinois’ troubled child services department.
  13. Chicago Tribune: George Sheldon tapped to run Illinois' DCF

    Blog

    George Sheldon may have lost his bid for Attorney General last year to Pam Bondi, but his reputation as a Mr. Fix-It is intact.

    The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, has selected the Florida Democrat as the new head of that state's Department of Children and Family Services....

  14. State, feds negotiate over looming $1.3 billion health care budget shortfall

    State Roundup

    The state continued negotiations with the federal government on Wednesday in an effort to preserve funding for hospitals that treat large numbers of poor and uninsured patients.

    Florida had previously relied on a pot of money known as the Low Income Pool, or LIP. But the $2.2 billion program is scheduled to expire later this year, under an agreement between the state and federal government....

  15. Lawmakers scramble to plug $1.3 billion deficit in health budget

    State Roundup

    State lawmakers were scrambling to find $1.3 billion to plug a sudden budget deficit after a top Medicaid chief said Tuesday that Florida will lose federal money to help hospitals treat poor and uninsured patients.

    Eliot Fishman, director of the Children and Adults Health Programs Group in the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, told attendees at an Orlando health care conference that the federal government won't extend Florida's "Low Income Pool" program, or LIP, that reimburses hospitals that treat large numbers of poor and uninsured patients, according to news media reports....