With a looming deadline, Florida legislators return to the state Capitol this week promising to do what they couldn’t during the 60-day regular session that ended in May, reports Gary Fineout of The Associated Press.
And that’s to pass a new state budget that covers everything from money for schools and hospitals to paying for child abuse investigations.
While how the budget shapes up is at the top of most everyone’s concerns, I am more worried about a friend of mine, Kathy Mears, the chief of staff to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli.
Mears is too private a person to say anything and she probably doesn’t want me talking about it either, but these next three weeks will be very tough for her.
Understand, it’s the first time since she began working for Crisafulli that Tampa Bay Times reporter Michael Van Sickler won’t be in Tallahassee to cover the Legislature.
As we previously reported, Van Sickler has returned to St. Petersburg, where he is now at an editor’s desk.
Van Sickler transitioned to the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau in 2012, just as Mears was helping to guide then-Speaker Designate Will Weatherford. Over the next three years, the two forged the kind of relationship that left an indelible impression on both of them.
Van Sickler’s departure has left Mears heartbroken, say several colleagues in the Speaker’s Office, many of whom are equally distraught by the reporter’s exit from Tallahassee.
“Kathy doesn’t know what to do with herself,” says one senior House staffer. “One minute, she’s planning how to make fun of Mike at the 2016 press skits, the next minute he’s gone.”
One colleague of Mears says she is in a complete state of denial.
“Every day, we go into her office and tell her ‘He’s not coming back,’ ” said this colleague. “But then she closes her eyes and covers her ears and just won’t listen.”
But it’s not just Mears who is having trouble dealing with the reality that Van Sickler is no longer in Tallahassee. Attorney General Pam Bondi is also said to be shaken up by the absence of Van Sickler.
“Who is going to stalk me outside the Governors Club?” Bondi has reportedly asked members of her staff. “Who is going to Tweet random questions at me at all hours of the night?”
It’s likely Mears and Bondi aren’t the only ones who already miss Michael Van Sickler.
If you are also going through a tough time this Special Session, please get the help you need. Meanwhile, keep Mears, Bondi, and all of those who are suffering in your thoughts and prayers.