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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. Black caucus demands Rick Scott rescind order taking Orlando prosecutor off cop-killer case


    Members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus on Thursday called for Gov. Rick Scott to change his mind and rescind an executive order that transfered the case of a man accused of killing a police officer in Orlando away from the local state attorney after she declared she would not seek the death penalty.

    The order, signed by Scott last Thursday after State attorney Aramis Ayala publicly said she would not seek death for Markeith Loyd or any other accused murderer while she is in office, gives the Loyd case to Ocala-based State Attorney Brad King....

    Members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, led by Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Lauderhill, call on Gov. Rick Scott to rescind an executive order removing the Orange-Osceola state attorney from a case after she said she would not seek the death penalty.
  2. Future of medical pot in Florida still cloudy after Senate discussion


    TALLAHASSEE — What began as a decisive instruction from voters that patients who need medical marijuana should have access to it is shaping up to be a complex and contentious fight in the Florida Capitol.

    Lawmakers have put forward competing proposals to implement Amendment 2, which passed with 71 percent of the vote in November and lets patients with debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder use cannabis....

     Some of the medical marijuana products on display in the “Garden” at Surterra Wellness Center, 2558 E Fowler Ave., Tampa, on Feb. 27. Surterra Holdings is one of seven companies in Florida licensed to grow and sell medical marijuana products in the state.
  3. Senators poised for first major medical marijuana hearing


    Florida's new medical marijuana market will start to take shape today as a panel of senators workshops five proposals to put the voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing the drug into place.

    The Senate Health Policy committee, chaired by Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young, will consider issues related to the five proposed bills and hear public comment, the first step toward passing legislation and the first time members of the public will hear what key senators think about how medical marijuana should be implemented....

    Medical marijuana
  4. Lawmakers continue to target immigrant 'sanctuary' policies as House bill advances


    The Florida House has put a target on cities and counties that have “sanctuary” policies protecting undocumented immigrants picked up by police.

    Legislation (HB 697) requiring local officials do away with those policies or risk fines and removal from office is moving fast in the chamber. The bill would require police detain people for 48 hours — at local taxpayer expense — if they receive a request to do so from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And it would let victims or their families sue elected officials if a crime is committed by an undocumented immigrant in a community where sanctuary laws are in effect....

    Protester Joan Wynne, center, chants anti-Trump and anti-Gimenez slogans in downtown Miami on Jan. 31 during a protest over Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez's controversial order assuring the Trump administration that Miami-Dade is not functioning as a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants.
  5. Republican Lawmaker calls for Orlando state attorney to be suspended over death penalty comments


    A Central Florida lawmaker is now urging Gov. Rick Scott to suspend the Orlando state attorney who last week said she would not seek the death penalty in any cases, including that of a man accused of the execution-style shooting of a police officer.

    On Thursday, Scott removed State Attorney Aramis Ayala from that case and reassigned it to another state attorney, but Ayala challenged the action in a court filing Monday....

    State Rep. Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs, center, has called for State Attorney Aramis Ayala to be suspended after she publicly said she would not seek the death penalty while in office as the top prosecutor for Orange and Osceola counties.
  6. Puerto Rican governor asks for Rick Scott's help asking for Medicaid increase


    Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Friday issued a warning to Gov. Rick Scott: Help Puerto Rico advocate for more federal Medicaid money, or caring for the island's poor could become Florida's problem.

    After next year, the feds are expected to send dramatically less Medicaid money to Puerto Rico, which already gets an "inequitable" amount compared to states, Rosselló wrote. If there are additional cuts, he said, more Puerto Ricans could flock to the mainland United States, and Florida would be a likely place for them to go....

    Letter from Gov. Ricardo Rossello
  7. Lawyers say Rick Scott overstepped by taking case from Orlando state attorney


    Two former chief justices of the Florida Supreme Court and a former Florida State University president are among the lawyers and judges who publicly chastised Gov. Rick Scott on Monday for removing the state attorney in Orlando from prosecuting an alleged cop killer after she announced she would not seek the death penalty.

    In a letter, more than 100 current and former law professors, judges, prosecutors and lawyers told Scott they were "deeply troubled" and that his removal of State Attorney Aramis Ayala from the prosecution of accused killer Markeith Loyd "sets a dangerous precedent."...

    Sandy D'Alemberte
  8. Florida prosecutors rebuke Orlando state attorney, promise to continue seeking death penalty


    Nineteen of Florida's 20 state attorneys announced Friday they would continue to seek the death penalty in cases they feel it is justified, a rebuke to the Orlando-area prosecutor who this week declared she would no longer push for capital punishment.

    "We affirm that the responsibility of enforcing the laws of Florida is paramount to our oath of office," the state attorneys said in a statement. "Throughout 19 of the 20 circuits of Florida, the death penalty will continue to be sought in those cases which qualify for its implementation."...

    Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala says she will no longer pursue the death penalty.
  9. Gov. Scott takes cop-slaying case from Orlando prosecutor over her refusal to seek death penalty

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday removed the newly elected prosecutor in Orlando from the high-profile prosecution of a man accused of killing a cop after she announced she would not seek the death penalty in that case or any first-degree murder case.

    Aramis Ayala, state attorney in Orlando and Osceola counties, told reporters that she determined the death penalty wasn't in the best interest of justice. Her assessment included the case of Markeith Loyd, who is accused of killing Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton on Jan. 9 as she tried to capture him more than a week after he allegedly killed his ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon....

    On the steps of the Orange County Courthouse  on Thursday,  Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala announces to reporters that her office will no longer pursue the death penalty.
  10. Rick Scott removes prosecutor over refusal to seek death penalty


    This post has been updated:

    Gov. Rick Scott has removed Aramis Ayala, the newly elected prosecutor in Orlando, from the high-profile prosecution of accused cop killer after she announced she would not seek the death penalty in this or any first-degree murder case during her four-year term.

    Scott assigned the case to Brad King, state attorney for Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties....

     Markeith Loyd is accused of killing an Orlando police officer and his pregnant ex-girlfriend.
  11. Summer is coming. So is Zika.


    Three months after Gov. Rick Scott stood in Miami Beach and declared that the Zika virus was no longer spreading in Florida, mosquito control experts are warning people not to be complacent.

    Zika could come back.

    “Those same risk factors that we saw in 2016 are also still present today,” said Andrea Leal, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District....

    An Aedes Aegypti mosquito, the species that can carry Zika virus, in the lab at Pinellas County Mosquito Control.
  12. Janet Cruz and Democrats rally on equal pay for women


    Democrats rallied supporters inside the state Capitol on Tuesday urging an end to the pay disparities between men and women.

    "Now more than ever, it  is time for us to come together and write these protections into law and into the lives of women in Florida," said Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, who sponsored legislation (SB 410) to address the problem.

    House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa put it more simply: "I want my whole damn dollar," she chanted to the crowd....

    Minority Leader Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, rallies supporters of an equal pay for women bill in the Florida Capitol on Tuesday.
  13. Uber and Lyft's top-priority legislation clears first-ever Senate hearing


    For the first time Tuesday, a Senate committee approved legislation that would take away local governments' ability to regulate ridesharing businesses like Uber and Lyft, a signal that the bill could finally pass this session after years of lawmakers and the companies themselves attempting to push it through.

    The House has already teed up a version of the legislation (SB 340/HB 221) for a vote on the floor. That chamber passed similar legislation in 2016 and was poised to take it up in 2015....

    Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, talk to reporters about the Uber bill during the 2016 legislative session.
  14. Family of Hillsborough deputy killed in drunk driving crash advocates for new DUI laws


    One year ago, Hillsborough Sheriff's Deputy John Kotfila Jr. was killed by a drunk man driving the wrong way down the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway.

    It's a death that rocked the Tampa Bay law enforcement community -- and one that could have been prevented, his family and anti-drunk driving advocates said in the state Capitol Tuesday....

    Deputy John Kotfila Jr., center, is pictured with his father John Kotfila Sr., left, a sergeant with the Massachusetts State Police, and his brother Michael Kotfila with the Plymouth, Mass., Police Department in their respective law enforcement uniforms.
  15. Gov. Rick Scott signs new unanimous jury standard for death penalty into law

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — It now takes a unanimous jury to sentence someone to death in the state of Florida.

    Gov. Rick Scott on Monday night signed into law a new requirement that raises the jury standard for death penalty cases from 10-2. The legal change was made necessary by a Florida Supreme Court ruling in October that found the state's sentencing laws unconstitutional.

    The Legislature passed the new rules (SB 280) overwhelmingly last week. The death penalty fix is the first major law passed and signed in the 2017 session....

    Rep. Blaise Ingoglia was one of three to oppose the legislation.