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Michael Auslen, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Michael Auslen

Michael Auslen covers state government and politics in the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau. He is originally from Arvada, Colo., and graduated in 2014 from Indiana University with degrees in journalism and political science. Michael has previously worked for the Indianapolis Star, USA Today and Dow Jones.

Phone: (850) 224-7263

E-mail: mauslen@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MichaelAuslen

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  1. Withdrawal of Florida from federal refugee program passes House committee

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Lawmakers took their first step Thursday toward removing Florida from the refugee resettlement program amid charges that the federal government was not an effective partner with state law enforcement.

    A state House subcommittee voted 9-5 along party lines for legislation (HB 427) to pull out of the refugee program.

    With refugees at the center of national debate over President Donald Trump's travel ban, pulling out of the program has been called a political move....

    Rubycellia Salnero, Anthony Salnero, 6 months, Angel Salnero, 9, of Tampa pray at a special church service at the Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon on Feb. 1. 

The Diocese of St. Petersburg held a prayer vigil for migrants and refugees led by Rev. Gregory L. Parkes, Bishop of St. Petersburg, with an estimated 1,000 people in attendance from around the community.

Many in our community and throughout the country are experiencing fear and anxiety in response to President Trump. On Thursday, a Florida House committee passed a bill that would withdraw state participation in a federal program that resettles refugees. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  2. House Democrats call out Republicans' closed-door meeting

    Blog

    House Minority Leader Janet Cruz on Thursday responded to a closed-door caucus meeting held by Republicans in Tallahassee to discuss taking down Enterprise Florida.

    "Transparency when conducting the people’s business is of the utmost importance and that’s why our caucus room is always open to the public," Cruz, D-Tampa, said in a statement....

    Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, hugs members of her family at a ceremony where Democrats elected her minority leader of the Florida House.
  3. Supreme Court upholds order blocking 24-hour abortion waiting period

    Blog

    Women do not have to follow a state law requiring them to see a doctor 24 hours before having an abortion, the state Supreme Court made clear Thursday in a ruling that upholds an existing, lower court decision blocking the law from going into effect.

    The 4-2 decision says the 24-hour delay law, passed and signed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2015, has a "substantial likelihood" of being ruled unconstitutional under broad privacy protections in the state Constitution....

    Florida Supreme Court
  4. State House subcommittee votes to pull Florida from federal refugee program

    Blog

    Lawmakers took their first step Thursday toward removing Florida from the refugee resettlement program amid charges that the federal government was not an effective partner with state law enforcement.

    The House’s Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee voted 9-5 along party lines for legislation (HB 427) to pull out of the refugee program. Similar legislation has not been filed in the Senate, indicating it may have limited possibility to become law....

    The Alsaloum family waits in line at a social security office in Tampa on Feb. 2, 2017, with case worker Rana Al Sarraf of Coptic Orthodox Charities, Inc. Al Sarraf plays a crucial role in assisting refugee families with getting their lives started in the United States. Florida lawmakers are considering withdrawing any state assistance in a federal program that resettled refugees in Florida. Last year, 3,272 refugees resettled in Florida.
  5. Florida may stop approving new hospital beds. Will that mean unequal access for rich and poor?

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — When someone wants to build a hospital or nursing home in Florida or add beds in an existing facility, the state has to agree that their community has a need for expanded health care.

    It's a regulation meant to ensure that poor and rich communities alike have equal access to hospitals, hospices and other health facilities. But at $10,000 to $50,000 per facility application, it's also costly and can lead to lengthy, and much pricier, lawsuits....

    Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, says the health care industry needs competition to help fight rising costs.
  6. Refugees in Florida are in the spotlight again. Here's what you need to know.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — As President Trump's executive order thrust refugees into the national spotlight, Florida House lawmakers were preparing a plan to pull the state out of the federal program that assists refugees after they arrive in the country.

    Thursday morning, the House's Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee will vote on legislation (HB 427) by state Rep. David Santiago, R-Deltona, to remove Florida from refugee resettlement....

    The Alsaloum family waits in line at a social security office in Tampa on Feb. 2, 2017, with case worker Rana Al Sarraf of Coptic Orthodox Charities, Inc. Al Sarraf plays a crucial role in assisting refugee families with getting their lives started in the United States. Florida lawmakers are considering withdrawing any state assistance in a federal program that resettled refugees in Florida. Last year, 3,272 refugees resettled in Florida. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times ]
  7. Lobbyist muscle will be major force in medical marijuana fight

    Blog

    Last week, hundreds of hopeful patients, caregivers and business interests filled meeting rooms across the state to tell health officials how they want Florida’s medical marijuana program to go into effect after 71 percent of voters approved it.

    In Tallahassee, the picture is a little different. Instead of patients, lobbyists pack committee hearings.

    Lobbyists, paid to represent various interests, are normally the ones watching as state lawmakers cast votes, but their interest in pot is so great that the first House subcommittee meeting on the subject was standing-room only. Sergeant-at-arms staffers blocked the door, turning people away....

    A House committee room is standing-room-only as lobbyists pack in for a public hearing on medical cannabis. The room was so packed, staff in the sergeant-at-arms' office had to block entrance to latecomers.
  8. Florida CFO Jeff Atwater resigning for 'expanded' CFO role at FAU

    Blog

    Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced Friday he’s resigning from his Cabinet position to return to Palm Beach County and take a job as the CFO of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

    Atwater, who is from North Palm Beach, will be the university’s vice president of strategic initiatives and CFO — where he’ll “lead strategic initiatives and economic development opportunities for FAU as well as manage the university’s finances and budget.”...

    Florida CFO Jeff Atwater
  9. Health officials wrap up week of hearings on marijuana

    Blog

    The Florida Department of Health’s fifth and final hearing on new medical marijuana rules may have been its most sparsely attended, but those who did show up largely spoke with one voice.

    Not all speakers presented the same wish list, but many — particularly hopeful cannabis patients and their caregivers — expressed a handful of hopes with the new rules DOH must put in place by this summer....

    Department of Health officials listen to public comment at the final rulemaking hearing for new medical marijuana rules Thursday in Tallahassee.
  10. Women could sue 10 years after abortions under new Florida House bill

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Women who are injured or feel emotional distress for up to 10 years after an abortion could sue their doctors under a new proposal being pushed by state lawmakers.

    Approved on a 10-6 vote by a House subcommittee on Thursday, the legislation (HB 19) is the first bill that could restrict a woman's access to an abortion to gain support in the state Capitol this year. And it won't be the last....

    Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, is the sponsor of HB 19, which would allow women up to 10 years after an abortion to sue their doctors. [Florida House of Representatives]
  11. Abortion legislation letting women sue doctors for physical, emotional harm clears House panel

    Blog

    Women who are injured or experience "emotional distress" after having an abortion could sue their doctors for up to 10 years after the procedure under legislation passed Thursday by a Florida House subcommittee.

    "This bill provides a remedy for women who are physically or emotionatlly damaged from abortions by creting a specific cause of action against negligent physicians," said the legislaton's sponsor, Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach. "A doctor would be held responsible if that doctor failed to give the informed consent appropriately."...

    Anti-abortion advocates take part in a 40 Days for Life event at Tampa Women's Heath Center in 2013.
  12. Uber bill easily clears first hurdle in Legislature

    Blog

    With just one "no" vote in its first committee, legislation that would stop local governments from regulating companies like Uber and Lyft appears to be a on a fast track to passage by the Florida House.

    The bill (HB 221) by Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, sets insurance and background check requirements for ridesharing companies that use smartphone apps to connect users with drivers. More significantly, it tells local governments they cannot set their own conflicting regulations....

    Lawmakers have proposed preempting local governments' regulation of rideshare companies like Uber.
  13. Who'll pay for Japanese prime minister's visit to Mar-a-Lago?

    Blog

    From our friends at the Miami Herald:

    The visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the Trump-family-owned Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, this weekend is fraught with ethical problems.

    Will U.S. taxpayers pay for Abe? Will Abe stay for free? Will Abe pay Trump, who will give the money to the U.S. Treasury?...

    Shinzo Abe
  14. Proposal could roll back access to public records, watchdogs say

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — State senators on Tuesday gave their first approval to legislation that open-government advocates say threatens to roll back access to public records in Florida.

    The bill (SB 80) would let judges decide whether or not to force government agencies to pay attorney fees when they illegally block access to records. Current law requires that agencies pay for the lawyers of members of the public who successfully sue them over records....

    State Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, chairs the Government Oversight and Accountability Committee, which approved the bill by a 4-3 vote.
  15. Senate advances bill that could chill access to public records

    Blog

    State senators on Tuesday gave their first approval to legislation that First Amendment advocates say is a threat to open government in Florida.

    The bill (SB 80) would make it more difficult to collect legal fees from government agencies when they illegally block access to records that state law says are supposed to be available to the public. Current law says judges must require agencies to pay attorney fees to people who successfully sue them over records, but Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube’s proposal would let the judge decide whether or not to award fees....

    Then a state representative, Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, debates on the House floor. Steube is now pushing legislation that government watchdogs fear will have a chilling effect on Florida's public record laws.