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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. House passes 12-year term limits for justices and judges


    Justices on the Florida Supreme Court and judges on state appellate courts would be forced out of office after 12 years under a constitutional amendment that the Florida House barely passed Wednesday.

    The measure, which would be the first of its kind in the country, has been criticized by business groups and conservative and liberal lawyers. To make it into the state Constitution, it needs to pass the Florida Senate, where it has not been given a single committee hearing, and gain 60 percent of voters’ support....

    Florida House
  2. House and Senate want to cut Orlando prosecutor's budget over death penalty comments


    State lawmakers are trying to cut the budget of State Attorney Aramis Ayala, the Orlando-area prosecutor who said she would not pursue the death penalty while in office.

    In initial budget proposals released Monday and Tuesday, the House and Senate committees responsible for funding Florida's criminal justice system put forward a plan to cut more than $1 million and 21 staff positions....

    In a press conference on the steps of the Orange County Courthouse Thursday, March 16, 2017, Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala announces that her office will no longer pursue the death penalty as a sentence in any case brought before the 9th Judicial Circuit of Florida.
  3. Medical marijuana bill moves in Florida House, but draws critics for being too restrictive

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — A powerful Florida House Republican said Tuesday he'll consider revising his plan for medical pot after drawing criticism from marijuana supporters.

    House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, who's shepherding the lower chamber's bill (HB 1397) to expand the distribution of voter-approved medical marijuana, said he's willing to compromise to ensure the Legislature puts something into law....

    The medical marijuana legislation being shepherded by House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, includes bans on smoking, vaping edibles. Pictured is vials of medical marijuana oil. [Monica Herndon | Tampa Bay Times]
  4. Hospitals face Medicaid cuts in first drafts of state budget


    Florida state lawmakers on Tuesday proposed cuts to Medicaid that could take as much as $621.8 million away from hospitals next year.

    The proposals, put forward by the House and Senate health care budget subcommittees are meant to reduce the state budget, but they have hospitals on edge.

    In the House, Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, recommended cutting the state’s share of Medicaid by $238.6 million. However, Medicaid is mostly funded by the federal government, so every dollar the state cuts has more than double the impact. The House proposal would take $621.8 million total from hospitals....

    Sens. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, and Anitere Flores, R-Miami.
  5. 30 for 30 director and state lawmaker spar on Twitter over accusation of 'pay to play' politics


    Florida Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, this weekend unleashed a Twitter rant at the director behind Cocaine Cowboys and popular ESPN 30 for 30 specials including The U after the lawmaker was accused of engaging in "pay to play" politics to stifle medical marijuana.

    Grant is angling for the state to give $500,000 to fund a "marijuana abuse prevention outreach program" in the wake of November's overwhelming vote to allow medical cannabis in Florida. That money would go to Drug Free America, the foundation run by Mel and Betty Sembler, a well-connected couple in Republican circles whose role in the anti-drug movement is highly controversial....

    Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa
  6. Hospitals on edge as lawmakers weigh cuts to Medicaid in Florida

    State Roundup

    The nurses and doctors at Brandon Regional Hospital worried Lakota Lockhart wouldn't make it when he was born.

    "I remember nurses saying, 'Come on, baby. Take a breath,' " said Lakota's mother, Krystal.

    Lakota, now 7, was born with a disorder of the central nervous system that causes him to stop breathing when he falls asleep. The condition affects only 1,500 people in the world.

    Sometimes, Lakota has access to private health insurance. But when his father is out of work, he relies on Medicaid. The public health insurance program provides Lakota, who lives in Plant City, the most access to specialists and therapists, Krystal said. ...

    Krystal Lockhart reaches into a bag checking on supplies as Lakota Lockhart, 7, waits in the backseat with a portable ventilator on Wednesday. Health care advocates are keeping a close eye on the health care changes in Washington, like many people, but they see a more urgent threat closer to home: The prospect of cuts to Medicaid. Lower rates would hit hospitals that already take a higher portion of low-income and charity-care patients, including the state's safety nets. That worries patient advocates and patients themselves, including Lakota Lockhart who has a rare congenital disease and whose mother says he has the greatest access to good care when they are on Medicaid. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]

  7. Richard Corcoran calls on governor to suspend Orlando state attorney


    Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Thursday called on the governor to suspend Aramis Ayala, the Orlando state attorney who last week said she would not seek the death penalty in any cases while in office.

    Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, said Ayala stepped outside the bounds of the state Constitution by declaring up front that she would not consider the death penalty, even in the most heinous murder cases. Florida's Constitution says that "the death penalty is an authorized punishment for capital crimes designated by the legislature," but state attorneys also have broad discretion to decide which cases they prosecute and how they do so....

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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.