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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. Republicans back Rick Scott's removal of Aramis Ayala in Kissimmee police shooting case


    The Kissimmee police shooting over the weekend also sparked the latest round between Gov. Rick Scott and Republicans and Orlando State Attorney Aramis Ayala.

    Ayala declared earlier this year that she objected to the death penalty for a number of reasons, including that African-Americans were grossly overrepresented on death row (which PolitiFact rated Mostly True). ...

  2. The guy who killed slavery monument scheduled to speak on importance of Confederate monuments


    It's no secret that Sen. Dennis Baxley loves the losing side in the U.S. Civil War.

    The descendant of a Confederate soldier, Baxley, R-Ocala, has never hesitated to promote his heritage. In 2007, he objected when lawmakers discussed changing the state song, including the removal of "darkeys" from the chorus. 

    So it should be no surprise that, amid the national debate about what to do with Confederate monuments, Baxley, who helped write the state's "stand your ground" law, will be a featured speaker at a southern heritage event on Sept. 2 titled "the War on the South."...

    Sen. Dennis Baxley
  3. Joe Henderson: Let Richard Corcoran sweat it out in a classroom


    The latest from Joe Henderson:

    You've seen and heard the stories about how air-conditioning breakdowns created sweltering conditions in many Hillsborough County public schools. It is a sweaty, stinking, ongoing mess, and there is no quick fix.

    I listened as Superintendent Jeff Eakins explained all that at a news briefing on Wednesday. If it sounds like we've heard all this before, well, we have — much of it, anyway. Schools had the same issue last year. This just in: It gets hot in Florida every August....

  4. Eisnaugle's House seat up for grabs: Olszewski wins GOP primary


    Remember when Eric Eisnaugle was slated to become a House Speaker?

    Well, those days are long gone. Eisnaugle was appointed to the state appellate court in May by Gov. Rick Scott, so he vacated his Orlando state House seat.

    The Republicans had their primary on Tuesday for the seat, with former Winter Garden Commissioner Robert "Bobby O" Olszewski inning 39.8 percent of the vote, beating out three other candidates....

    Robert "Bobby O" Olszewski
  5. Scott won't criticize Trump, but does blast racism


    Racism is bad, Gov. Rick Scott said Monday during a news conference in Lake Mary.

    While that shouldn't make news, it is somewhat noteworthy because of President Donald Trump's now notorious "many sides" statement on Charlottesville that he made Saturday....

    Scott denounced racism, but not Trump
  6. White nationalists find hero in Augustus Invictus, killer of goats


    He didn't fare well in his bid last year to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate. Augustus Sol Invictus could only muster 1,063 votes in his loss in the Libertarian Party of Florida's primary on Aug. 30.

    But the 34-year-old former Orlando area attorney does have a following among white nationalists. Invictus headlined the ill-fated Unite the Right's Charlottesville rallies over the weekend....

    Invictus headlined the Charlottesville rallies.
  7. Jack Latvala files to run for Florida governor


    Well, so much for the drama about what Sen. Jack Latvala will announce on Wednesday.

    A month ago, Latvala, R-Clearwater, said he would make a big announcement on Aug. 16, leaving everyone to speculate that he would become a candidate for governor in a field that currently only has one real GOP contender in Adam Putnam, who officially declared in May that he was running.  But Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis are also considering a run. (The Democratic field is getting crowded too, with Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Chris King and maybe soon Philip Levine)...

    Latvala spilled the beans on Friday.
  8. Rick Scott treks to Tennessee on another raid for jobs


    He did it to California. And Connecticut. And New York. Pennsylvania, too.

    Now, according to the News Service of Florida, Rick Scott is going north to poach jobs from the Volunteer State.  ...

    Think we should tell them?
  9. Bill Nelson tweaks Rick Scott for backtracking on Venezuela


    Gov. Rick Scott made big news in July when he proposed a business ban on groups that support Venezuela.

    But it turned out there were limits to what Scott was proposing, considering it doesn't just require a vote by the Cabinet, but there's a legal question about whether making such a decision is the province of the state or federal government....

    U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson
  10. VIDEO: Rick Scott doesn't have much to say on Pinellas car thefts


    Sunday's horrific crash that killed three teen boys has rattled Pinellas County. 

    On Monday, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri blamed an epidemic of car thefts on a judicial system that isn't imposing tough enough sentences on juveniles to deter future thefts. The Tampa Bay Times wrote an editorial Monday that said this issue can no longer be brushed aside. All of this was covered in a prescient and ground-breaking report by the Times earlier this year. ...

    Rick Scott sorta fields questions from reporters
  11. Miami-Dade cleared by feds after adjustments on 'sanctuary' status


    It was only last month that the U.S. Justice Department put 10 jurisdictions on alert that they were under review as to whether they were cooperating with federal efforts to detain and deport undocumented immigrants. They could lose millions in federal grant money if they were found to uncooperative....

    Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez
  12. Snoop Dogg, Roger Stone show support for John Morgan


    John Morgan is picking up disparate signs of support on Twitter for a possible run for governor.

    On Friday, Donald Trump ally and Florida man Roger Stone threw his support behind John Morgan's campaign. "Many ask if I'm for (Adam) Putnam, (Richard) Corcoran or (Ron) DeSantis for Gov. of Fla. He'll (sic) I'm for @johnmorganesq.!"...

    John Morgan
  13. Videos showing shark abuse may inspire tougher laws


    From the News Service of Florida's Jim Turner:

    As state investigators seek more evidence from the public about a growing number of videos that showcase abuse of sharks, legislation may be filed that seeks to better define state wildlife laws.

    “It is unfortunate that it takes events like this to bring to light other cruel animal abuses that occur on our waters,” state Rep. Alex Miller, R-Sarasota, posted on Facebook last week in reaction to a video that showed a shark being dragged behind a boat at a high speed through Tampa-area waters.

    The video has spurred social-media outrage and the circulation online of other videos and photos believed to be related to the people in the shark-dragging episode.

    “If current law does not find this to be a prosecutable crime, I will present a bill this session that brings more clarity,” Miller said in the post.

    Miller's Facebook post came before the Manatee County State Attorney's Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Division of Law Enforcement announced Friday they hope for a “swift and lawful resolution” to the incident that sparked the online outrage.

    Also, Gov. Rick Scott called on state wildlife officials to review fishing regulations after watching what he called a "disturbing video" showing a "hateful act."
    "The brutality and disrespect shown to this animal is sickening and I am sure that you share my outrage over these individuals' heinous actions,” Scott wrote to Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Chairman Brian Yablonski on July 28.

    Yablonski responded that the commission will move forward to strengthen regulations where needed.

    Among the other pictures and videos that have been circulated is a video showing a man firing two shots into a hammerhead shark that had been reeled to the side of a boat.

    Hammerheads are among a number of shark species it is illegal to harvest in state waters.

    The shark in the initial video may be a blacktip or spinner shark, which can both be caught. The blacktip is among 12 species in which the state has no size limits. Spinner sharks must be at least 54 inches to be pulled in.

    In their joint statement, the FWC and the State Attorney's Office asked for public “understanding and patience.”

    “These investigations are complex, and both the FWC and the State Attorney's Office appreciate the public's understanding and patience,” the statement said. “We take these incidents seriously, and this investigation is moving forward.”

    Miller said she expects that, “In the age of social media more and more of these incidents will come to light.”

    She noted that current law appears “pretty vague and doesn't address mistreatment of sharks, although it does include a list of sharks that aren't allowed to be harvested.”...

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating a viral video that shows a shark being dragged behind a boat on a rope as men laugh each time its body slams the water.
  14. Al Gore's publicity tour takes him to Miami


    From the Miami Herald's Jenny Staletovich:

    This weekend when theater’s nationwide begin showing An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, former Vice President Al Gore’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning documentary on climate change, Miami appears as a key supporting cast member.

    Gore last visited South Florida in 2015 as part of a training session for his Climate Reality Project that encourages grassroots activism by presenting the slide show that also helped win him a Nobel Peace Prize. The session happened to coincide with a king tide, giving Gore, and a pair of documentary filmmakers trailing him, the perfect opportunity to showcase the perils of rising seas on Miami Beach’s submerged roads....

    Former Vice President Al Gore visited Miami this week to talk to audiences after a screening of the follow-up to his Oscar-winning movie, An Inconvenient Truth. The sequel, An Inconveniet Sequel: Truth to Power, opens nationwide this weekend.
  15. Opinions across Florida: Child shootings too easily overlooked


    CHILD SHOOTING EPIDEMIC: As the Tampa Bay Times pointed out earlier this year, one child is shot in Florida every 17 hours. On Sunday, a 4-year-old boy died in Tampa after accidently shooting himself with a gun he found in his home. Miami Herald metro columnist Fred Grimm says too little is being done to stop this violence, and, as evidenced by Adam Putnam's early campaign for governor, there are few signs this will change any time soon. ...

    Guns confiscated during an eight-month investigation that ended in May.