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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


Twitter: @MichaelAuslen

  1. Convicted murderer whose release Pam Bondi fears will stay behind bars

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Tampa police officer convicted in 1980 of murdering a security guard was again denied parole at a hearing Wednesday where Attorney General Pam Bondi said his release could have put her at risk.

    Bondi, a career prosecutor who years ago as a member of the Hillsborough state attorney's office urged parole commissioners to keep Charles Norman, 67, behind bars, continues to advocate publicly against his release. ...

    Charles  Norman was sentenced to life in prison for killing a security guard.
  2. Adam Putnam calls for special session on medical marijuana


    Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam wants state lawmakers to come back to Tallahassee in a special session to finish the work on medical marijuana that they started but didn't finish earlier this month.

    "I think that it's important for the elected officials to have done their job during the regular session," he said Tuesday. "Since they didn't, I think a special session is in order."...

    Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam is a candidate for governor in 2018.
  3. Why's Pam Bondi raising money? Not to run for office, she says


    Term-limited Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi may have restarted her political fundraising, but she says she's not considering a run for another public office.

    In early April, Bondi's fundraising engine started back up, bringing in more than $82,000 to her political committee, called Justice for All. It raised questions about the aspirations of a Republican attorney general who can't seek reelection and who has already declared she would not run for governor in 2018....

    Attorney General Pam Bondi
  4. Corcoran's brother is lobbyist for marijuana grower opposing dispensary caps


    State lawmakers’ effort to put voter-passed medical marijuana into effect in Florida fell apart over a disagreement on whether to cap the number of dispensaries each cannabis grower could open. It’s an issue that could be a boon for one of the state’s largest licensed growers.

    Surterra, one of Florida’s largest medical marijuana growers, is banking on opening 55 dispensaries in the next five years as part of a plan to bring in more than $138 million in sales by 2021, according to a confidential pitch deck put together by a potential investor and obtained by the Times/Herald....

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran
  5. Darryl Rouson wants rank-and-file lawmakers to take medical pot into their own hands


    While neither legislative leadership nor Gov. Rick Scott have convened a special session on medical marijuana, Sen. Darryl Rouson on Wednesday asked lawmakers to call for one themselves.

    Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, joins a chorus of lawmakers who have publicly called for a special session. But he's taking it one step further, asking his colleagues in the Legislature to call a special session themselves, something that hasn't happened in recent memory....

    State Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg
  6. How profitable will medical-marijuana shops be? Very, says confidential pitch for investors

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — As differences over pot shop restrictions burned a medical marijuana bill to ashes in Tallahassee, one of Florida's largest legal cannabis operators courted millions of dollars from new investors and touted a lucrative plan to open dozens of storefronts around the state.

    A private equity firm's confidential pitch deck obtained by the Miami Herald shows that only days ago Surterra Florida was seeking investors to buy a $10 million minority stake while also arguing against limits on the number of retail outlets any licensed operator can open. Some potential investors were lured with projections that show Surterra grossing $138 million in sales by 2021 thanks largely to the operation of 55 retail outlets — nearly four times the cap desired by the Florida Senate....

    Medical marijuana products are on display in the "Garden" at Surterra Wellness Center, 2558 E Fowler Ave. in  Tampa. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  7. Abortion bills die in Florida's Capitol for the first time in eight years


    Lawmakers left Tallahassee last week without accomplishing an agenda item that has been at the forefront for years: They passed no legislation restricting abortions or targeting abortion clinics.

    It’s the first time in eight regular sessions of the Legislature — since 2010 — that abortion bills haven’t passed.

    A bill (HB 19) that would have allowed women to sue their doctors within 10 years of an abortion if they develop an injury or “emotional distress” cleared a few House committees but never moved in the Senate. Lawmakers also passed over a bill (HB 203) banning abortion at 20 weeks after fertilization....

    Planned Parenthood supporters in Tampa this February.
  8. Medical marijuana special session in limbo: It's up to Rick Scott or Joe Negron

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — As support builds for lawmakers to return to the state Capitol to pass medical marijuana language, two of the three men who could call a special session have been quiet about their plans.

    Action from either Gov. Rick Scott or Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, could bring lawmakers back to Tallahassee. On Monday, Scott continued to repeat a non-answer his office has put forward since calls for a special session on medical marijuana began May 6....

    Senate President Joe Negron asked fellow senators to weigh in on a special session.
  9. Rick Scott's chief of staff, Kim McDougal, to 'transition' out of office


    Gov. Rick Scott is going to need a new chief of staff.

    Kim McDougal, a career state worker who has served as the governor's chief of staff since April 2016, will leave the governor's office July 1.

    A Monday afternoon announcement says she will "transition" out and plans on "pursuing opportunities in the private sector," though it was not clear what those opportunities might be. A replacement has not yet been announced....

    Kim McDougal (right) walks alongside Bryan Koon, director of the Division of Emergency Management, Gov. Rick Scott and Adjutant General Michael Calhoun in the aftermath of Hurricane Hermine last August.
  10. Racial issues united Florida's legislators, but divided them, too

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — It was an emotional peak in the long legislative session: Lawmakers — black, white, Hispanic — stood in somber solidarity in a Capitol rotunda to formally say Florida was sorry for what happened seven decades ago to four black men who were victims in one of state's most racist episodes.

    What few knew at that moment of unity on the morning of April 18 was that just 13 hours before, a state senator had cursed at a black female lawmaker using a sexist remark and a racial slur directed at other legislators....

    State senator Frank Artiles, R-Miami, embroiled the Capitol in drama after he used a racial slur, at about the same time the Legislature formally apologized for one of the worst racist episodes in Florida history. [AP Photo/Steve Cannon] [AP Photo | Steve Cannon]
  11. Issues involving race played dominant role in Florida's 2017 session


    It was an emotional peak in the long legislative session: Lawmakers — black, white, Hispanic — stood in somber solidarity in a Capitol rotunda to formally say the state of Florida was sorry for what it did seven decades ago to four black men who were victims in one of the most racist episodes in state history....

    Lawmakers in the Florida House debate bills during daily floor session May 4, 2017.
  12. Richard Corcoran calls for special session on medical marijuana


    House Speaker Richard Corcoran is joining the ranks of those calling for a special session to pass medical marijuana legislation after lawmakers failed to reach agreement on the issue last Friday.

    "I think there should be a special session on medical marijuana," Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, told the Times/Herald on Wednesday.

    Last Friday, lawmakers hit an end-of-session deadline without finishing a deal to implement Amendment 2, which passed with 71 percent of voters' support in the November election. Since then, activists including United for Care chairman John Morgan and Florida for Care executive director Ben Pollara, the men behind the medical marijuana campaign....

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran
  13. Rick Scott okays Everglades reservoir and ban on local Uber rules

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday signed into law a plan to build a 78 billion gallon reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee and a measure that will stop local governments from regulating ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

    They were among 11 pieces of legislation Scott signed the day after lawmakers ended a legislative session in which many of his priorities were not funded or were ignored....

    Lawmakers hope a new reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, a priority of Senate President Joe Negron that was okayed by Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday, will help prevent algae blooms downstream like what can be seen here lapping Sewell's Point on the shore of the St. Lucie River last June. [Associated Press]
  14. Joe Negron says he'll 'look at' a special session on medical marijuana


    After the Legislature failed to pass a medical marijuana bill, Senate President Joe Negron said late Monday night that he would consider calling lawmakers back to Tallahassee in special session.

    "We’ll confer with the House and with the governor and then make a decision on whether that’s something we should do," Negron, R-Stuart, told reporters following the end of the legislative session Monday. "I think the Legislature does have a responsibility to be involved in that implementation, so I think that’s an option we’ll look at."...

    Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island
  15. Orlando state rep appointed to appellate court by Rick Scott


    Gov. Rick Scott on Monday appointed state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, one of his allies in the Florida House, to the state appellate court.

    Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, was a frontrunner for speaker of the House in 2020-22, but last year, Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, secured the votes necessary. Sprowls is an ally of Speaker Richard Corcoran....

    Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando