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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. Group: Jamie Grant is "cheating" on term limits


    From Times correspondent William March

    State Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, is being bashed by the U.S. Term Limits organization, which claims he's "cheating" on term limits – but the charge goes back to a wrinkle in Florida election law that fouled up Grant's 2014 re-election.

    That re-election was invalidated because of litigation over a write-in candidate who filed for his District 64 seat, but didn't live in the district and never campaigned. Grant missed most of the 2015 legislative session while the litigation was decided, but won re-election again in a special election in April, 2015....

    Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa
  2. Richard Corcoran makes nice with Visit Florida


    From the News Service of Florida's Jim Turner:

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran said Visit Florida apparently listened to state lawmakers' criticism, as the tourism-marketing agency has canceled an auto racing sponsorship and is negotiating for a better deal with an English football club.

    “It's clear that Visit Florida has heard us loud and clear and are beginning the process of cleaning up their act and ceasing the waste of taxpayer money,” Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, said in a statement Thursday....

    Visit Florida's racing team is no more after July 3. The soccer team? It stays, for now.
  3. Opinions across Florida: Trump chooses wisely on Cuba


    Not all newspapers agree on Trump's handling of Cuba. While the Tampa Bay Times editorial board criticized Trump's approach for crimping improving relations, two other newspapers approved the new direction. 

    The Miami Herald concluded that Trump is "right to recalibrate this policy without jettisoning it wholesale."...

    President Donald Trump, with Republican leaders, signs policy documents rolling back Obama-era changes that eased U.S.-Cuba relations at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami.
  4. Here's a story about Miami real estate that involves Trump, bikers and Russians


    From the Miami Herald's Lily Dobrovolskaya and Nicholas Nehamas:

    Out-of-town money pouring into South Florida real estate is as old as Henry Flagler.

    But the tale of Igor Zorin offers a 21st-century twist with all the weirdness modern Miami has to offer: Russian cash, a motorcycle club named after Russia’s powerful special forces and a condo tower branded by Donald Trump....

    Vladimir Putin (L), then Russia's Prime Minister, walks side by side with Alexander Zaldostanov (R), nicknamed "the Surgeon", the leader of the group of Russian bikers called the Night Wolves, near Sevastopol in Ukraine's Crimea, in 2010.
  5. Federal authorities launch probe into city of Tallahassee


    UPDATED POST (5:00 p.m.):

    From Gary Fineout at the Associated Press:

    In a move that could shake-up next year's race for Florida governor, the FBI has launched an investigation into redevelopment deals involving prominent business owners and developers in the state capital. 

    Federal grand jury subpoenas this month seek five years of records from the city of Tallahassee and a local redevelopment agency that involve high profile projects and developers including an ally of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. ...

    Andrew Gillum
  6. Low on juice: Dept. of Citrus braces for 22 percent spending cut


    From the News Service of Florida's Jim Turner:

    The Florida Department of Citrus plans to continue to squeeze its operations during the coming year as the industry struggles, though travelers will still be able to receive free orange juice at state welcome centers.

    The Florida Citrus Commission, which oversees the department, approved a preliminary $17.5 million operating budget Wednesday that would feature a 22 percent spending cut, with no change to a so-called "box tax" on oranges....

    Budget cuts are on the way for the Dept. of Citrus
  7. Opinions across Florida: State workers deserve more


    Here's a sample of opinions from news outlets around Florida.

    Located in the state capital, the Tallahassee Democrat has always covered state worker issues more closely than other publications. Last week, its editorial board shrugged at the raises lawmakers approved, with Gov. Rick Scott's consent. The raises were overdue, and inadequate, the board concluded.

    Unfortunately, the $1,000 raises for employees making more than $40,000 and $1,400 pay hikes for those making less, came with a couple of changes in personnel policies affecting new state workers. The Republicans who run the Legislature have been trying for years to tinker with the Florida Retirement System and the state employee health-insurance plan, and this year they succeeded....

    State employees are underpaid, in comparison to jobs in the private sector and city and county governments.
  8. BREAKING: Marco Rubio mocks hug meme


    It was the hug attempt felt round the world.

    When Sen. Marco Rubio leaned in to hug Ivanka Trump today, AP congressional correspondent Erica Werner took a photo that seemed to capture an awkward moment.

    And perhaps it did....

    This doesn't look too awkward.
  9. When Marco Rubio tried to hug Ivanka Trump


    What should have been a pro-forma hug at a photo opportunity today in Washington is close to breaking Twitter.

    Sen. Marco Rubio was attending a meeting this morning with Ivanka Trump. They were discussing "pro-family tax reform".

    And then, at some point, Rubio went in for a hug....

    ...and America cringed.
  10. Opinions across Florida: State Democrats act like losers


    If you saw reports of a meltdown with Florida Democrats over the weekend, you probably thought, 'Wow, that's a party in disarray." Well, the Miami Herald editorial board piled on with an editorial titled "Florida's Democrats still act like losers."...

     Stephen Bittel in happier times
  11. Rick Scott, coy about 2018, nags those who skip out on Trump


    Gov. Rick Scott was on CNN's "Erin Burnett Outfront" Monday night, playing coy about running for the U.S. Senate. After host Erin Burnett ran some footage of President Donald Trump teasing Scott before a crowd last week about running, Scott was asked again what his plans are. 

    "It's 2017, the race is in 2018," Scott said. "I won't make a decision until later."

    Scott also tsked tsked fellow multi-millionaires Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Elon Musk of Tesla for skipping a meeting with Trump at the White House on Monday....

    Rick Scott
  12. Health officials move forward with marijuana plans


    From the News Service of Florida's Dara Kam:

    Florida health officials have laid out a new process to implement the voter-approved constitutional amendment broadly legalizing medical marijuana, as they attempt to meet deadlines included in the November ballot measure.

    The latest proposed rule came as the Department of Health awaits Gov. Rick Scott's signature of a medical-marijuana bill adopted by lawmakers during a special session this month. That bill addressed major issues, such as how many companies will receive marijuana licenses and how many retail outlets they can run.

    Lawmakers on Monday formally sent the bill (SB 8-A) to Scott, who has said he will sign it into law.

    The House and Senate approved the bill during the special session after coming under fire for failing to pass a regulatory measure during the regular session that ended early in May.

    Under the proposed rule published Friday, the Department of Health appears to be laying the groundwork for the new law, which establishes a number of regulatory guidelines.

    "Today, to ensure compliance with our constitutional duties, the department published proposed rules for the implementation of Amendment 2, which was approved by 71 percent of Florida voters in 2016," Department of Health spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said in an email Friday. 

    Gambineri said the department is crafting rules to comply with SB 8-A, "which provides a framework for patients to access marijuana safely."

    The constitutional amendment gives health officials until July 3 to craft rules to implement the amendment and until Oct. 3 to put the rules into effect.

    Typical administrative-law procedures include timelines for challenges and revisions that could push finalization of the department's regulations beyond the constitutional deadlines.

    But the Department of Health is relying on an emergency rulemaking process authorized under the bill approved this month.

    "This will enable the department to quickly implement the time-sensitive requirements of the legislation. Following emergency rulemaking, the department is committed to working collaboratively with the public through traditional rulemaking to establish a patient-centered medical marijuana program," Gambineri said in an email.

    Lawmakers in 2014 and 2016 approved measures that allowed medical cannabis for limited groups of patients, including people with terminal illnesses. But the constitutional amendment approved in November could make marijuana available to hundreds of thousands of patients --- and make Florida one of the largest cannabis markets in the country.

    The amendment gave doctors the authority to order marijuana for a broad swath of patients with debilitating conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis....

    Medical marijuana
  13. Appeals court rejects Caloosahatchee water case


    From the News Service of Florida's Jim Saunders: 

    A federal appeals court Monday rejected a lawsuit alleging that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' management of water flowing from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River caused pollution problems in the Southwest Florida waterway.

    A three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based appeals court --- in a case described in one document as a "procedural thicket" --- upheld a lower court decision to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida....

    A plume of tainted water from Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River laps the shore of Captiva, left, and Sanibel Islands off the southwest coast of Florida in Feb. 2016.
  14. Where did FDLE go in NYT investigation of Florida sheriff?


    There's much to unpack with the New York Times' investigation of St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar, but perhaps one of the most inexplicable elements is how the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is behaving.

    Sunday's 1A blockbuster was actually the second part of a story that Walt Bogdanich, a three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, wrote in 2013. That story, co-written with Glenn Silber, depicted the botched initial investigation of the 2010 shooting death of Michelle O'Connell, a 24-year-old mother of a 4-year-old girl. O'Connell died from a gunshot in the mouth. Found next to her was a semiautomatic pistol that belonged to her boyfriend, Jeremy Banks, a deputy sheriff for St. Johns County. ...

    St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar
  15. Court says marijuana investor information public


    From the News Service of Florida:

    Information about investors and partners in medical-marijuana businesses is not a trade secret and should be disclosed under Florida's public-records law, an appeals court ruled Friday.

    A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected arguments by Surterra Florida, LLC, Alpha Foliage, Inc. and Redland Nursery, Inc. that information identifying investors and partners --- submitted as part of license applications to the Florida Department of Health -- should be shielded from release because it is a trade secret....

    Marijuana leaves