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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. Florida GOP consultant asked for hacked Democratic documents from 'Guccifer 2.0'


    Florida Republican political operative Aaron Nevins was sent 2.5 gigabytes of Democratic campaign documents by the same hacker alleged to be behind the release of Democratic National Committee documents and Clinton campaign emails, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

    The Journal report, which you can read in full here (though it is behind a paywall), is a reminder that every story really does have a Florida connection....

  2. Florida TaxWatch calls out $180 million of questionable spending in state budget


    Florida TaxWatch, a Tallahassee thinktank, has released its annual "budget turkey" list that calls on Gov. Rick Scott to veto nearly $180 million in special projects tucked into the budget, mostly in transportation.

    The upshot of TaxWatch's analysis -- which calls out line items that are slipped into the budget behind closed doors or circumvent beaurocratic structures meant to prioritize what projects are funded first -- is that while some parts of the budget process were more transparent than usual this year, the bulk of it was not....

    Kurt Wenner, Florida TaxWatch's vice president for research, presents the organization's 2017 turkey list.
  3. Health officials outline their plan for writing medical marijuana rules


    Florida health officials are taking the very earliest steps toward rolling out rules to let patients use medical marijuana after state lawmakers failed to resolve the issue during the final hours of their session earlier this month.

    The Department of Health on Thursday published a notice outlining special procedures for them to implement Amendment 2, which passed with 71 percent of the vote last November and allows patients with a list of conditions including HIV/AIDS, cancer and PTSD to access medical cannabis....

    Medical marijuana
  4. Mel and Betty Sembler's Drug Free America Foundation calls for special marijuana session


    An unlikely voice has joined the drug policy activists calling on Florida lawmakers to come back in special session focused on medical marijuana: The Drug Free America Foundation, which opposes medical marijuana and whose founders spent nearly $10 million trying to kill the 2014 and 2016 constitutional amendments to legalize medical cannabis....

    Mel and Betty Sembler, pictured in 2011.
  5. Convicted murderer whose release Pam Bondi fears will stay behind bars

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Tampa police officer convicted in 1980 of murdering a security guard was again denied parole at a hearing Wednesday where Attorney General Pam Bondi said his release could have put her at risk.

    Bondi, a career prosecutor who years ago as a member of the Hillsborough state attorney's office urged parole commissioners to keep Charles Norman, 67, behind bars, continues to advocate publicly against his release. ...

    Charles  Norman was sentenced to life in prison for killing a security guard.
  6. Adam Putnam calls for special session on medical marijuana


    Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam wants state lawmakers to come back to Tallahassee in a special session to finish the work on medical marijuana that they started but didn't finish earlier this month.

    "I think that it's important for the elected officials to have done their job during the regular session," he said Tuesday. "Since they didn't, I think a special session is in order."...

    Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam is a candidate for governor in 2018.
  7. Why's Pam Bondi raising money? Not to run for office, she says


    Term-limited Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi may have restarted her political fundraising, but she says she's not considering a run for another public office.

    In early April, Bondi's fundraising engine started back up, bringing in more than $82,000 to her political committee, called Justice for All. It raised questions about the aspirations of a Republican attorney general who can't seek reelection and who has already declared she would not run for governor in 2018....

    Attorney General Pam Bondi
  8. Corcoran's brother is lobbyist for marijuana grower opposing dispensary caps


    State lawmakers’ effort to put voter-passed medical marijuana into effect in Florida fell apart over a disagreement on whether to cap the number of dispensaries each cannabis grower could open. It’s an issue that could be a boon for one of the state’s largest licensed growers.

    Surterra, one of Florida’s largest medical marijuana growers, is banking on opening 55 dispensaries in the next five years as part of a plan to bring in more than $138 million in sales by 2021, according to a confidential pitch deck put together by a potential investor and obtained by the Times/Herald....

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran
  9. Darryl Rouson wants rank-and-file lawmakers to take medical pot into their own hands


    While neither legislative leadership nor Gov. Rick Scott have convened a special session on medical marijuana, Sen. Darryl Rouson on Wednesday asked lawmakers to call for one themselves.

    Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, joins a chorus of lawmakers who have publicly called for a special session. But he's taking it one step further, asking his colleagues in the Legislature to call a special session themselves, something that hasn't happened in recent memory....

    State Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg
  10. How profitable will medical-marijuana shops be? Very, says confidential pitch for investors

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — As differences over pot shop restrictions burned a medical marijuana bill to ashes in Tallahassee, one of Florida's largest legal cannabis operators courted millions of dollars from new investors and touted a lucrative plan to open dozens of storefronts around the state.

    A private equity firm's confidential pitch deck obtained by the Miami Herald shows that only days ago Surterra Florida was seeking investors to buy a $10 million minority stake while also arguing against limits on the number of retail outlets any licensed operator can open. Some potential investors were lured with projections that show Surterra grossing $138 million in sales by 2021 thanks largely to the operation of 55 retail outlets — nearly four times the cap desired by the Florida Senate....

    Jake Bergmann is the CEO of Surterra Holdings LLC, one of the seven licensed medical marijuana companies in Florida. [Special to the Times]
  11. Abortion bills die in Florida's Capitol for the first time in eight years


    Lawmakers left Tallahassee last week without accomplishing an agenda item that has been at the forefront for years: They passed no legislation restricting abortions or targeting abortion clinics.

    It’s the first time in eight regular sessions of the Legislature — since 2010 — that abortion bills haven’t passed.

    A bill (HB 19) that would have allowed women to sue their doctors within 10 years of an abortion if they develop an injury or “emotional distress” cleared a few House committees but never moved in the Senate. Lawmakers also passed over a bill (HB 203) banning abortion at 20 weeks after fertilization....

    Planned Parenthood supporters in Tampa this February.
  12. Medical marijuana special session in limbo: It's up to Rick Scott or Joe Negron

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — As support builds for lawmakers to return to the state Capitol to pass medical marijuana language, two of the three men who could call a special session have been quiet about their plans.

    Action from either Gov. Rick Scott or Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, could bring lawmakers back to Tallahassee. On Monday, Scott continued to repeat a non-answer his office has put forward since calls for a special session on medical marijuana began May 6....

    Florida Governor Rick Scott announces during a press conference at Jungle Island that the number of tourists visiting the state for the first three months of 2017 was about 31.1 million people. Once again, he demurred when asked about calling a special session for medical marijuana. "I'm looking at all my options," he told reporters on Monday.  [Joe Raedle | Getty Images]
  13. Rick Scott's chief of staff, Kim McDougal, to 'transition' out of office


    Gov. Rick Scott is going to need a new chief of staff.

    Kim McDougal, a career state worker who has served as the governor's chief of staff since April 2016, will leave the governor's office July 1.

    A Monday afternoon announcement says she will "transition" out and plans on "pursuing opportunities in the private sector," though it was not clear what those opportunities might be. A replacement has not yet been announced....

    Kim McDougal
  14. Racial issues united Florida's legislators, but divided them, too

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — It was an emotional peak in the long legislative session: Lawmakers — black, white, Hispanic — stood in somber solidarity in a Capitol rotunda to formally say Florida was sorry for what happened seven decades ago to four black men who were victims in one of state's most racist episodes.

    What few knew at that moment of unity on the morning of April 18 was that just 13 hours before, a state senator had cursed at a black female lawmaker using a sexist remark and a racial slur directed at other legislators....

    State senator Frank Artiles, R-Miami, embroiled the Capitol in drama after he used a racial slur, at about the same time the Legislature formally apologized for one of the worst racist episodes in Florida history. [AP Photo/Steve Cannon] [AP Photo | Steve Cannon]
  15. Issues involving race played dominant role in Florida's 2017 session


    It was an emotional peak in the long legislative session: Lawmakers — black, white, Hispanic — stood in somber solidarity in a Capitol rotunda to formally say the state of Florida was sorry for what it did seven decades ago to four black men who were victims in one of the most racist episodes in state history....

    Lawmakers in the Florida House debate bills during daily floor session May 4, 2017.