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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 appoints Jonathan Zachem to lead business regulatory agency


    From the News Service of Florida:

    Gov. Rick Scott appointed Jonathan Zachem as Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Tuesday. The department has been without a full-time leader since Ken Lawson left to become president and CEO of tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida in January.

    Zachem had been DBPR's deputy secretary and previously served as chief attorney and then director of the agency's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering....

    Scott appoints Jonathan Zachem as Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation
  2. Opinions across Florida: The Disciples of Darkness


    Here's a roundup of opinions from Florida news outlets.

    These are dark times for Florida's government-in-the-sunshine laws. The Florida Legislature continued to pass exemptions that chip away at the guarantee of open meetings and records. And Tampa Bay's delegation certainly helped this trend, according to a scorecard handed out by the Florida Society of News Editors. That Tampa Bay Times editorial board singled out the lawmakers for their poor marks in a Tuesday editorial....

    From left to right, top to bottom, here are 12 bay area Florida House members and their grades on openness: Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, D-plus; Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, D-plus; Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, D-plus; Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, D-minus; Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, D-minus; Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City, D-plus; Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, D-plus; Rep. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, D-plus; Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, D-plus; Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, D-minus; Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Hudson, D-plus; House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, D-plus.
  3. Group: Richard Corcoran "sells out Florida" at Koch retreat


    The left-leaning advocacy group, FloridaStrong, released a web ad on Monday criticizing House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, and his successor, Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, for attending a Koch retreat over the weekend.

    Corcoran and Oliva "talk a big game when it comes to enacting transparency and accountability around how taxpayers are spent...until it comes to the Koch Brothers and their reckless corporate agenda that directly hurts Floridians' quality of life."...

    Oliva and Corcoran catching up
  4. AP: Rick Scott to name Jimmy Patronis CFO on Monday


    From the AP's Gary Fineout:

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott is turning to a long-time political ally and former north Florida legislator to take over one of the top elected jobs in state government. 

    Scott on Monday will announce he's appointing Republican Jimmy Patronis to replace Jeff Atwater as chief financial officer. Atwater, who was first elected to the post in 2010, is resigning from the job before his term is over to become a vice president at Florida Atlantic University. Patronis, who helped his family run a well-known restaurant in Panama City, currently sits on the state panel that regulates utilities. He was a member of the Florida Legislature for eight years before Scott appointed him to the Public Service Commission. ...

    Then state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City Beach, left, and Gov. Rick Scott, tour downtown Panama City, Fla. on Tuesday, April 19, 2011. Scott will name Patronis CFO on Monday.
  5. Corcoran attends Koch brothers' retreat at exclusive Rocky Mountain resort


    In a potential run for governor, House Speaker Richard Corcoran has criticized special interests while claiming state government officials like him are more representative of Florida residents than officials in local governments.

    "I care more about the people of this state than I care about the governments of this state," Corcoran recently told Tampa residents at a Cafe con Tampa breakfast. ...

    Florida Speaker Richard Corcoran, left, and his successor, Rep. Jose Oliva of Miami, attended a three-day retreat hosted by the conservative Koch network.
  6. 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
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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