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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. LGBTQ activists say Rick Scott promised to ban discrimination and never delivered


    In the wake of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando last year, Gov. Rick Scott’s staff told LGBTQ rights activists in backroom meetings that he would sign an executive order banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in state hiring and contracting.

    One year later, it’s a promise Scott hasn’t kept, says state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat and former lobbyist for Equality Florida, which advocates on behalf of Florida’s LGBTQ community....

    Gov. Rick Scott finishes a TV interview in the days following the Pulse shooting in 2016.
  2. Rick Scott signs tough new mandatory minimums for fentanyl into law


    Gov. Rick Scott has signed into law tough, new minimum mandatory prison sentences for people cought with more than 4 grams of deadly fentanyl or carfentanil.

    The measure (HB 477), which passed in the final days of the legislative session, is meant to target drug traffickers and curb the opioid epidemic that is sweeping through parts of the state.

    It was one of 28 bills Scott signed Wednesday....

    Gov. Rick Scott
  3. John Morgan to raise funds for Richard Corcoran as both consider run for governor


    Thursday night, the state's most famous liberal trial lawyer will raise money for the conservative Republican speaker of the House.

    At the Orlando home of one of his firm's lawyers, John Morgan will be on hand to raise money for Watchdog PAC, a new committee that Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, founded last month.

    The men are friends, as they've reminded people in the past. And in recent weeks, they have been in touch about one of Morgan's pet issues, medical marijuana, as the House and Senate negotiated legislation putting into effect Amendment 2, the Morgan-funded, voter-approved mandate giving some patients access to the drug....

  4. As Cabinet races heat up, money flows to ag commissioner candidates


    The end of session last month brought the first chance for some of the highest-power candidates for the Florida Cabinet to raise funds.

    With all three Cabinet seats open in the 2018 election, would-be attorneys general, commissioners of agriculture and chief financial officers posted May fundraising numbers meant to intimidate.

    Though the full field of candidates are still forming, here’s a rundown of May numbers for those who have declared....

  5. Former state Rep. Baxter Troutman files for agriculture commissioner


    Citrus grower and former state Rep. Baxter Troutman is joining the growing field vying for commissioner of agriculture.

    The Winter Haven Republican served in the House from 2002 to 2010. He opened his campaign account Monday with a $2.5 million personal contribution, his campaign said.

    "Every corner of this great state feels the practical and economic impact of agriculture, and we simply cannot afford someone in this important leadership position who doesn’t understand how to make it work for taxpayers," Troutman said in a statement....

    Then-Rep. Baxter Troutman cracks a cattle whip on the House floor in 2007.
  6. Janet Cruz considering a run for Hillsborough County Commission


    State Rep. Janet Cruz, the Democratic leader of the Florida House, sounds like she’s going to run for Hillsborough County Commission next year.

    Officially, Cruz says she’s “considering” a run. The Tampa lawmaker, who is term limited in the House next year, is waiting until later this summer to file for commission District 1, currently held by Republican Sandy Murman....

    House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa
  7. Winner and loser of the week


    Winner of the week

    State universities. After Gov. Rick Scott vetoed more than $100 million in projects at universities, they’re emerging from special session a little richer. The Senate forced Scott to take supplemental funding, restoring some of those vetoed projects. And Scott promised to back down and sign the increases into law.

    Loser of the week...

  8. John Morgan’s next target: Swaying the Trump administration on pot


    Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan scored a big win this week as state lawmakers passed a medical marijuana bill, which Gov. Rick Scott plans to sign.

    Morgan bankrolled two political campaigns to legalize medical pot, finally succeeding in 2016. And though he plans to sue the state over a smoking ban in the law, he moved the needle on marijuana in the conservative Florida Legislature....

    John Morgan and Roger Stone
  9. Gov. Rick Scott says he will sign medical marijuana bill approved by lawmakers

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — More patients will soon be able to buy medical marijuana in Florida after state lawmakers passed legislation Friday putting into effect a constitutional amendment passed by 71 percent of voters.

    Under that constitutional amendment, patients with a number of conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS and epilepsy are supposed to have access to the drug.

    The legislation sets in motion a plan to license 10 new growers by October, bringing the statewide total to 17. It allows patients to use cannabis pills, oils, edibles and "vape" pens with a doctor's approval but bans smoking....

    Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, right, answers questions on medical marijuana on the Senate floor during a special session of the legislature this week. [AP Photo | Mark Wallheiser]
  10. Senate passes medical marijuana bill, teeing up House vote this afternoon


    Lawmakers look to be on track to pass sweeping medical marijuana legislation this afternoon.

    The Senate okayed the bill, negotiated between leaders of both chambers after they failed to reach agreement during their regular session, by a vote of 28-8 Friday afternoon. 

    The legislation (SB 8A) passed Friday sets in motion a plan to license 10 new growers by October, bringing the statewide total to 17. It allows patients to use cannabis pills, oils, edibles and “vape” pens with a doctor’s approval but bans smoking....

    Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, listens to debate on the medical marijuana bill he sponsored Friday.
  11. Florida Senate set to roll back hospital cuts, but don't expect the House to go along


    Senators are poised to vote today to roll back $260 million in cuts to Medicaid that they passed during the regular session, bringing hospital funding yet again into a political stalemate between the House and Senate.

    During regular session, lawmakers agreed to $521 million in cuts to hospital payments, with about $92 million coming from Tampa Bay.

    The cuts were part of the budget deal that led to the end of regular session in May....

    Sens. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, share a laugh on the Senate floor.
  12. Who benefits with legalized medical pot? Could be Big Citrus and Big Sugar.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — When Florida lawmakers vote today on sweeping legislation expanding access to medical marijuana, they'll also be approving a sweetener for the state's citrus industry.

    Tucked into the legislation, which establishes a system for patients to buy cannabis, is language that requires the Department of Health to give preferential treatment to companies that promise to convert orange juice factories and other citrus-processing facilities into marijuana grow sites. ...

    Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, answers questions on medical marijuana bill, HB 1397, on the floor at the Florida Capitol, in May. [AP Photo | Mark Wallheiser]
  13. Jeff Brandes doesn't like the medical pot deal


    Negotiators in the House and Senate have reached agreement on how to put medical marijuana into effect. But one senator says lawmakers are going about it the wrong way.

    Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, was the first lawmaker to publicly support Amendment 2, which 71 percent of voters supported, forcing lawmakers to implement medical marijuana. On Thursday, he proposed an alternative to House and Senate leaders' plan. He has long been a critic of the way lawmakers are going about implementing medical pot, saying it is too regulated....

    Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, (right), and Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island.
  14. Lawmakers to vote (finally) this week on medical marijuana deal

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — State lawmakers reached an agreement to make medical marijuana available in Florida, ending an impasse that derailed the issue last month.

    Reached Tuesday night after weeks of closed-door negotiations, the deal affirms the will of 71 percent of voters who approved a constitutional amendment in November's election that allowed patients with a host of conditions access to the drug....

    A medical marijuana oil pill. [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]
  15. Lawmakers reach agreement on medical marijuana for special session


    State lawmakers on Wednesday reached agreement on how to put medical marijuana — passed overwhelmingly by voters in November — into effect in Florida.

    Legislative leaders are expected to add it to their agenda as they convene in Tallahassee Wednesday afternoon, a rare sign of consensus in a contentious special session.

    The agreement, reached Tuesday night after at least a week of closed-door negotiations, calls for 10 new growers to be licensed this year, in addition to the seven that already hold a state license under an existing, limited cannabis program. New licenses would go to previous applicants who were high-scoring in competition for the existing licenses, and the rest would go to new applicants, including at least one black farmer, House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, said....

    Senate President Joe Negron and Sen. Rob Bradley