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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

E-mail: mauslen@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MichaelAuslen

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  1. Philip Levine calls Richard Corcoran and House Republicans' idea 'Soviet'

    Blog

    What do you call a Republican-controlled House that's pushing to ban local governments from regulating business?

    "Soviet." At least according to Democratic Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine who excoriated the House's attempt to override city and county rules and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes....

    Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine
  2. Should local governments have less power? Some state lawmakers think so.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Wage theft laws meant to help workers get paid what they are owed, rules meant to curb pollution and protections for LGBT Floridians could be on the chopping block this year if some Republicans in the Florida House get their way.

    Lawmakers are pushing a bill (HB 17) that would prohibit cities, counties and other arms of local government from passing any regulations on businesses unless they have been given specific permission from the state Legislature. The same proposal would repeal existing rules governing businesses in 2020....

    Democratic Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn objects to such a law.
  3. Death penalty fix likely ready for floor votes at start of session

    Blog

    Legislation that lawmakers hope will restore normalcy to Florida’s death penalty is on track to land on Gov. Rick Scott’s desk at the start of their upcoming session.

    On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee gave a bill requiring jurors to vote unanimously for a sentence of death its approval on a 17-1 vote, clearing it for passage by the full chamber. A similar Senate bill is expected to pass the Rules Committee this afternoon....

    Herman Lindsey, one of 26 exonerated off Florida's death row, speaks to state lawmakers in opposition to the death penalty Tuesday in Tallahassee.
  4. 'We choose life,' say churches calling to stop executions

    Blog

    As state lawmakers prepare to pass legislation requiring juries vote unanimously to sentence convicted murderers to death, a coalition of churches has a different idea: Abolish the death penalty entirely.

    Members of the Florida Council of Churches and representatives from the AME and Catholic denominations on Tuesday called on lawmakers to pass a moratorium on executions, citing high cost of death penalty appeals, the possibility of wrongful convictions and the impact on victims' families being forced to relive their loved one's murder repeatedly in court....

    Darlene Farah, whose daughter Shelby was murdered in 2013, calls for an end to the death penalty surrounded by church leaders in the state Capitol on Tuesday.
  5. Bill Nelson's post-election pep talk: 'It has been a difficult slog'

    Blog

    Sen. Bill Nelson sounded a little like the coach of a losing team in the locker room at half time Monday as he made the rounds in the state Capitol, delivering pep talks to House and Senate Democrats.

    "I know that it has been a difficult slog," Nelson told a gathering of six Senate Democrats. "We ended up with one net plus in the Florida Senate. But the next time around is a very, very good opportunity for Democrats. I think you see the lay of the land on the national scene, and I think that's going to translate in all the races on the ballot."...

    U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (right) speaks to Florida Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens on Monday as part of a pep-talk tour of the state Capitol.
  6. Withdrawal of Florida from federal refugee program passes House committee

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Lawmakers took their first step Thursday toward removing Florida from the refugee resettlement program amid charges that the federal government was not an effective partner with state law enforcement.

    A state House subcommittee voted 9-5 along party lines for legislation (HB 427) to pull out of the refugee program.

    With refugees at the center of national debate over President Donald Trump's travel ban, pulling out of the program has been called a political move....

    Rubycellia Salnero, Anthony Salnero, 6 months, Angel Salnero, 9, of Tampa pray at a special church service at the Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon on Feb. 1. 

The Diocese of St. Petersburg held a prayer vigil for migrants and refugees led by Rev. Gregory L. Parkes, Bishop of St. Petersburg, with an estimated 1,000 people in attendance from around the community.

Many in our community and throughout the country are experiencing fear and anxiety in response to President Trump. On Thursday, a Florida House committee passed a bill that would withdraw state participation in a federal program that resettles refugees. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  7. House Democrats call out Republicans' closed-door meeting

    Blog

    House Minority Leader Janet Cruz on Thursday responded to a closed-door caucus meeting held by Republicans in Tallahassee to discuss taking down Enterprise Florida.

    "Transparency when conducting the people’s business is of the utmost importance and that’s why our caucus room is always open to the public," Cruz, D-Tampa, said in a statement....

    Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, hugs members of her family at a ceremony where Democrats elected her minority leader of the Florida House.
  8. Supreme Court upholds order blocking 24-hour abortion waiting period

    Blog

    Women do not have to follow a state law requiring them to see a doctor 24 hours before having an abortion, the state Supreme Court made clear Thursday in a ruling that upholds an existing, lower court decision blocking the law from going into effect.

    The 4-2 decision says the 24-hour delay law, passed and signed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2015, has a "substantial likelihood" of being ruled unconstitutional under broad privacy protections in the state Constitution....

    Florida Supreme Court
  9. State House subcommittee votes to pull Florida from federal refugee program

    Blog

    Lawmakers took their first step Thursday toward removing Florida from the refugee resettlement program amid charges that the federal government was not an effective partner with state law enforcement.

    The House’s Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee voted 9-5 along party lines for legislation (HB 427) to pull out of the refugee program. Similar legislation has not been filed in the Senate, indicating it may have limited possibility to become law....

    The Alsaloum family waits in line at a social security office in Tampa on Feb. 2, 2017, with case worker Rana Al Sarraf of Coptic Orthodox Charities, Inc. Al Sarraf plays a crucial role in assisting refugee families with getting their lives started in the United States. Florida lawmakers are considering withdrawing any state assistance in a federal program that resettled refugees in Florida. Last year, 3,272 refugees resettled in Florida.
  10. Florida may stop approving new hospital beds. Will that mean unequal access for rich and poor?

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — When someone wants to build a hospital or nursing home in Florida or add beds in an existing facility, the state has to agree that their community has a need for expanded health care.

    It's a regulation meant to ensure that poor and rich communities alike have equal access to hospitals, hospices and other health facilities. But at $10,000 to $50,000 per facility application, it's also costly and can lead to lengthy, and much pricier, lawsuits....

    Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, says the health care industry needs competition to help fight rising costs.
  11. Refugees in Florida are in the spotlight again. Here's what you need to know.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — As President Trump's executive order thrust refugees into the national spotlight, Florida House lawmakers were preparing a plan to pull the state out of the federal program that assists refugees after they arrive in the country.

    Thursday morning, the House's Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee will vote on legislation (HB 427) by state Rep. David Santiago, R-Deltona, to remove Florida from refugee resettlement....

    The Alsaloum family waits in line at a social security office in Tampa on Feb. 2, 2017, with case worker Rana Al Sarraf of Coptic Orthodox Charities, Inc. Al Sarraf plays a crucial role in assisting refugee families with getting their lives started in the United States. Florida lawmakers are considering withdrawing any state assistance in a federal program that resettled refugees in Florida. Last year, 3,272 refugees resettled in Florida. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times ]
  12. Lobbyist muscle will be major force in medical marijuana fight

    Blog

    Last week, hundreds of hopeful patients, caregivers and business interests filled meeting rooms across the state to tell health officials how they want Florida’s medical marijuana program to go into effect after 71 percent of voters approved it.

    In Tallahassee, the picture is a little different. Instead of patients, lobbyists pack committee hearings.

    Lobbyists, paid to represent various interests, are normally the ones watching as state lawmakers cast votes, but their interest in pot is so great that the first House subcommittee meeting on the subject was standing-room only. Sergeant-at-arms staffers blocked the door, turning people away....

    A House committee room is standing-room-only as lobbyists pack in for a public hearing on medical cannabis. The room was so packed, staff in the sergeant-at-arms' office had to block entrance to latecomers.
  13. Florida CFO Jeff Atwater resigning for 'expanded' CFO role at FAU

    Blog

    Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced Friday he’s resigning from his Cabinet position to return to Palm Beach County and take a job as the CFO of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

    Atwater, who is from North Palm Beach, will be the university’s vice president of strategic initiatives and CFO — where he’ll “lead strategic initiatives and economic development opportunities for FAU as well as manage the university’s finances and budget.”...

    Florida CFO Jeff Atwater
  14. Health officials wrap up week of hearings on marijuana

    Blog

    The Florida Department of Health’s fifth and final hearing on new medical marijuana rules may have been its most sparsely attended, but those who did show up largely spoke with one voice.

    Not all speakers presented the same wish list, but many — particularly hopeful cannabis patients and their caregivers — expressed a handful of hopes with the new rules DOH must put in place by this summer....

    Department of Health officials listen to public comment at the final rulemaking hearing for new medical marijuana rules Thursday in Tallahassee.
  15. Women could sue 10 years after abortions under new Florida House bill

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Women who are injured or feel emotional distress for up to 10 years after an abortion could sue their doctors under a new proposal being pushed by state lawmakers.

    Approved on a 10-6 vote by a House subcommittee on Thursday, the legislation (HB 19) is the first bill that could restrict a woman's access to an abortion to gain support in the state Capitol this year. And it won't be the last....

    Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, is the sponsor of HB 19, which would allow women up to 10 years after an abortion to sue their doctors. [Florida House of Representatives]