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Michael Van Sickler, Tampa Bay Times

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, St. Petersburg City Hall and state government in Tallahassee. After a stint as assistant metro editor for the paper, he is now the government and politics editor.

Phone: (727) 580-9650.


Twitter: @MikeVanSickler

  1. Rick Scott calls out Richard Corcoran, Pinellas state lawmakers


    From Times staff photographer Scott Keeler:

    The Gov. Rick Scott Road Show continues.

    On Wednesday, Scott's tour defending his key agencies, Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, landed him at Allen Sports Center in Seminole, where 75 business officials greeted him....

    Rick Scott, with Visit Florida CEO Ken Lawson, during a Wednesday appearance at Allen Sports Center in Seminole.
  2. Trump's budget could cut program that helped pay for Tampa's Riverwalk


    Although Donald Trump vowed he would spend more on infrastructure, many of the grant programs that do that are in line to get cut in his budget.

    According to The Hill, Trump is putting together a $1 trillion package to upgrade the nation's transportation network. But if the budget follows a blueprint published by the Heritage Foundation, which has sway in Trump's administration, that would mean the end for the $510 million TIGER program....

    TIGER funds helped pay for the 2.6 mile Tampa Riverwalk
  3. NDN: Aaron Bean steered $1 million to friend's business


    Blockbuster from Arek Sarkissian at the Naples Daily News:

    A state senator helped a friend's business obtain $1 million hidden in the state budget after the two discussed how the lawmaker would promote the business, budget documents and emails show.

    Sen. Aaron Bean helped secure a $1 million special appropriation in this year's budget for an early mental health screening program run by Catherine Drew, the wife of Nassau County Tax Collector John Drew. Bean and John Drew have been friends for more than a decade and have supported each other politically....

    Sen. Aaron Bean
  4. Florida Lottery's record revenues no jackpot for students


    Very interesting story from the Miami Herald's Kyra Gurney.

    Gabriela Fowler has a 4.7 GPA, takes college-level calculus and statistics courses, and is the president of her school’s business leadership club. But for the 17-year-old Hialeah High senior, a college scholarship funded by the record-setting revenues of the Florida Lottery somehow remains out of reach.

    Like many low-income and minority students in Miami-Dade County, Fowler has been shut out by tougher eligibility requirements for Bright Futures college scholarships. A few years ago, her SAT and ACT scores would have been high enough to earn money that, along with federal financial aid, would have covered most of her college costs. Instead, Fowler is now scrambling to find a way to pay for college....

    Hialeah High School senior Claudia Cruz, 17, during a discussion in March about the difficulties minority and low-income students face in paying for college.
  5. Ayala: Rick Scott overstepped authority in death penalty case


    From the Associated Press

    A state attorney says Florida’s governor overstepped his authority when he pulled her off a case after she said she would not pursue the death penalty in any cases. 

    State Attorney Aramis Ayala made the assertion Monday in a legal motion that asks a judge to allow her to present that argument in court. The motion claims that allowing the governor to interfere could undermine Florida’s judicial system. ...

    Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala
  6. UPDATE: Facebook comments by Seminole County official spark outrage


    (The Orlando Sentinel reports that McCullars placed on administrative leave. Grant Maloy, Clerk of Courts and Comptroller, said that McCullars' comments "don't reflect my beliefs or the beliefs of the comptroller's office." An investigation is pending, with a decision expected this week. Maloy said her personally called Ayala to express his regrets.)...

    Stan McCullars, the assistant finance director at the Seminole County Clerk of the Circuit Court, apologized for posting a comment on Facebook that Aramis Ayala, state attorney for Orange and Osceola counties, be hung from a tree. Ayala is the first African-American state attorney.
  7. Another link between Trump and that Russian oligarch


    Some interesting dot connecting from the Palm Beach Post's John Pacenti:

    The coincidences are piling up.

    Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev last week disavowed any contact with President Donald Trump.

    But speculation again was stoked when his state-of-the-art yacht Anna sat anchored in the British Virgin Islands on Friday night and another equally resplendent luxury liner, the Sea Owl, sidled up, according to a website that tracks the movement of yachts....

    Two yachts believed to be the Anna, owned by Dmitry Rybolovlev, and the Sea Owl, owned by President Donald Trump’s financier Robert Mercer, are seen in a cove near the British Virgin Islands on Friday, March 10. (
  8. Gwen Graham tells Miami Beach voters she'll "soon" announce whether she's running for governor


    From the Miami Herald's Joey Flechas

    Speaking to a group of about 40 locals in private meet-and-greet Wednesday morning in Miami Beach, former Tallahassee Congresswoman Gwen Graham said she plans announcing a decision on a gubernatorial run "soon." The candidate, anticipated to enter the 2018 race for governor, spoke like a candidate while addressing residents eager to help her become Florida's next governor....

    Gwen Graham
  9. Florida scientists worried about Trump's proposed budget cuts


    Interesting story from the Miami Herald's Jenny Staletovich:

    A growing chorus of scientists is raising the alarm over reports of Trump administration budgets cuts that would affect climate change research and hurricane forecasting.

    On Monday, 32 Florida scientists sent a letter to the president voicing worry over reports that the Department of Commerce, which overseas the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has proposed cutting 17 percent from its budget, with the nation’s network of satellites taking the biggest hit. The satellites include a system of polar orbiters that provide critical data from the top and bottom of the planet and help scientists understand two of the biggest threats facing the peninsula....

    Yaneisy Duenas (left) and Ferando Sanudo walk through a flooded parking lot at the Haulover Marine Center during a king tide in November. Florida scientists on Monday sent President Donal Trump warning that cuts to NOAA’s polar satellite network could hurt research on climate change.
  10. Broward schools vote to protect students from immigration raids


    Very interesting story from the Miami Herald's Kyra Gurney:

    Broward County schools will become a safe zone of sorts for immigrant students and their families under a resolution passed on Tuesday by the school board. 

    In what supporters called a first-of-its kind action in Florida, the School Board of Broward County took several steps intended to protect the children of undocumented immigrants who face increasing fears of deportation under more aggressive immigration enforcement policies implemented by the Trump administration....

    Maria-Victoria Ramirez, the daughter of Colombian immigrants, spoke in favor of a Broward County school board resolution to protect undocumented students from immigration raids.
  11. Democratic field for governor is getting crowded: Chris King announces


    Just a day after Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum announced he was running for Florida governor in 2018, another Democrat filed to run.

    Christopher King, a 38-year-old housing investor from Orlando, filed papers on Thursday. According to an announcement from his nascent campaign, he'll make an announcement in April....

  12. Pam Bondi has been hanging with Donald Trump a lot lately


    Remember when everyone thought Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi would get hired real quick by President Donald J. Trump?...

    Bondi and Trump
  13. Richard Corcoran is that guy who's always quoting Game of Thrones


    The Florida House posted a new video Tuesday.

    And even by the smashmouth political stylings of Speaker Richard Corcoran, this one is over the top.

    The minute-long video begins with an ominous shot of the Capitol, with a voice over by Corcoran.

    "I remember being just a little boy, mesmerized by those stories. This idea of a group of men, working side-by-side together, none greater than the other. All of them willing to die for something greater than themselves."...

  14. It could be a long legislative session for Shawn Harrison


    Here's the latest from William March: 

    State Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, is "caught between a rock and a hard place," as Mayor Bob Buckhorn put it, in the internecine GOP feud over business incentives and tourism marketing.

    That probably makes prospects dim for Harrison to push through appropriations he wanted for University of South Florida, and projects for New Tampa and the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority....

    Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa
  15. Constitutional amendments


    In 2012, more than 200,000 would-be voters in the November general election gave up because they encountered long lines. Analysts blamed the long lines on a lengthy ballot that included 11 constitutional amendments that took time for voters to decide. This year, that is less of a problem. Only four constitutional amendments will confront voters. Of the four, Amendment 2 has garnered the most attention, while Amendment 1 has become a target for environmentalists. Amendments 3 and 5 have drawn little attention, but would have an economic impact. ...