Make us your home page

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. Poll: Are tougher penalties in Florida for texting while driving a good idea?

    State Roundup

    Florida lawmakers are considering making driving while texting a primary offense, so that law enforcement can pull you over if they see you do it.

    While current state law allows for fines of $20, it doesn't allow for any points assessed to a driver's record. A bill now being considered by state lawmakers would raise the fine to $30 and include an assessment of six points to a driver's record if the texting causes a crash....

  2. How Charlie Crist is spending the summer


    With the Tampa Bay Bucs stars of this year's Hard Knocks on HBO, showing up for an ordinary practice could reap some publicity for a savvy local politician. 

    Enter U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg. No stranger to the photo op, Crist visited One Buccaneer Place in Tampa on Thursday, shaking hands with a few of the players. Crist, who played quarterback for Wake Forest University before attending Florida State University, caught up with former Seminole QB Jameis Winston after practice, as well as defensive tackle Chris Baker. ...

    Congressman Charlie Crist talks with Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston after practice at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa
  3. Mary McLeod Bethune to replace Edmund Kirby Smith?


    Representing Florida since 1922 in the U.S. Capitol has been the likeness of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. Why him?

    Nobody has a really good answer. The St. Augustine native was the last Confederate general to surrender, and hey, what says American patriotism better than the last holdout of a breakaway bloc of states that wanted to preserve slavery?...

    Mary McLeod Bethune
  4. Should soft drinks be purchased by those on public assistance?


    Florida House Republicans have felt little hesitation in judging the actions of those who use food stamps, making it harder for many recipients to use them.

    Earlier this year, they pushed a bill that would have denied food stamps for 229,000 Floridians, most of them children, in an effort to reduce fraud. (It didn't pass). Budget Chair Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, said fraud was a problem based on his observation at an unspecified date and year that he saw someone in a grocery store use federal help who also had a Mercedes key chain. When he was in the state House in 2013, current U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz tweeted that he saw a woman in a Publix use federal assistance who had back tattoos....

    Coke is not it for some House Republicans
  5. NAACP demands Rick Scott and lawmakers remove Confederate symbols from Capitol


    Given the vacuum left by Gov. Rick Scott's silence on the matter, the NAACP Florida State Conference is calling for the removal of all Confederate symbols at the state Capitol. The group is asking for legislative leaders to support a ban on all Confederate symbols on public property across the state....

    Adora Obi Nweze
  6. 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). ...

  7. 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."...

    Guess who's coming to dinner?
  8. 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....

  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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, in a photo his Senate campaign gave out last year
  12. 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.
  13. 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?
  14. 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
  15. 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