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

    Blog

    (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.")...

  2. Capitol Buzz: What to watch today in Tallahassee

    Blog

    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.
  3. Capitol Buzz: What to watch today in Tallahassee

    Blog

    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
  4. Medicaid expansion debacle a potential bonanza for House Democrats -- finally

    Blog

    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....

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

    Blog

    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....

  6. With Crisafulli gone, Senate passes his water bill

    Blog

    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....

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

    Blog

    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)....

  8. The Buzz Help Guide to What Just Happened

    Blog

    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....

  9. Why did the Florida House adjourn early? Answering your questions

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — 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....

  10. Environmentalists seeing green on U.S. Sugar land

    Blog

    Green algae just might be the best lobbying tool environmentalists have in making their case that the state should buy land owned by U.S. Sugar.

    Last week, a bloom of toxic blue-green algae in water adjacent to Lake Okeechobee led to the suspension of water pumping that had been ordered by the Army Corps of Engineers. Environmentalists want to purchase about 46,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land that could be used to build a reservoir to capture the dirty discharge, purifying the water that drains into the Everglades, a case that was bolstered by last week’s bloom....

    Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, holds up a bottle of water collected Monday from the St. Lucie River, where he said a blue-green algae bloom was caused by excessive amounts of nutrients from agricultural runoff and human waste. Members of the Everglades Trust delivered the bottles with 20,000 petition signatures to members of the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday to highlight the consequences of not using Amendment 1 funds to purchase lands owned by U.S. Sugar south of Lake Okeechobee to protect the Everglades and drinking water sources. Draper spoke to reporters Tuesday outside the Capitol.
  11. Capitol Buzz: Things to watch today in Tallahassee

    Blog

    It's the 57th day of session, which usually means lawmakers are nearing the finish line on the budget. Alas, we're nowhere near that with the House and Senate looking at, in the words of Senate Appropriations Chair Tom Lee, "an unbridgeable gap." So Tuesday has the potential to be another slow day in the Florida Legislature.

    * The Senate will take final action on a proposal aimed at reforming Florida's guardianship system (HB 5). The bill was prompted by a Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigation that showed how elderly people have been denied due process....

  12. What did Crisafulli say in secret GOP meeting? Here's the script.

    Blog

    What did House Speaker Steve Crisafulli say last week during his closed door meeting with his Republican colleagues?

    Who knows. But below is the script that he used.

    Download Crisafulliscript....

  13. Capitol Buzz: Things to watch today in Tallahassee

    Blog


    Five days left, but of what?

    Monday was supposed to mark the start of the final week of session. But after the House and Senate failed to find common ground on the budget last week, there's little doubt that lawmakers will have to extend past May 1 or come back to Tallahassee in May or June.

    In the meantime, there are policy issues to tackle.

    * The Senate will take final action on SB 382, which would tighten the regulations on assisted living facilities. One provision would require additional inspections for facilities that have already had violations....

  14. 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....

  15. 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....