Author

Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper. Contact her at [email protected]

Biden, DeSantis butt heads but agree on this: Vaccines, antibody therapy save lives

By: - September 13, 2021

While President Joe Biden and Gov. Ron DeSantis clash regularly over management of the deadly resurgence of COVID-19, they agree on this: Approved vaccines and monoclonal antibody therapy are the best medical tools for fighting coronavirus and its Delta variant. The Democratic president and the Republican governor who might run against him in 2024 both […]

FL prison officer sentenced for assaulting young inmate in broom closet

By: - September 10, 2021

Former Florida prison officer Terrance Reynolds, convicted of conspiracy to assault and intimidate young inmates at a South Florida prison, was sentenced in federal court this week to 33 months in prison. Reynolds, 31, was tried and convicted of conspiring with another officer to assault and intimidate the young inmates. Reynolds and another officer in […]

Global report: FL among top states for mass incarceration

By: - September 8, 2021

Florida and a dozen other states imprison people at the highest rates in the world, without demonstrating that incarceration reduces crime, says the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-partisan research and policy advocacy organization. Florida’s rate of incarceration in prisons and jails was 795 people per 100,000, 13th highest in the United States, according to the […]

Federal court ruling could compel FL to pause on permitting dredge and fill of wetlands

By: - September 7, 2021

Protecting wetlands and waterways should not be at the broad discretion of states such as Florida that were granted permitting authority in the final days of the Trump administration, says a national environmental law organization, citing a sweeping Aug. 31 federal ruling limiting states’ authority. The ruling in U.S. District Court in Arizona tosses out […]

GOP-heavy committees prepare to draw FL districts that will shape decade of elections

By: - September 3, 2021

The state lawmakers who will draw new electoral districts that will shape Florida elections in 2022 and beyond were announced Friday. The job of carving Florida into 120 state House districts, 40 Senate districts and 28 congressional districts will begin as early as next month. The process, called apportionment or redistricting, is undertaken every 10 […]

Scientific report warns of climate-induced extreme heat; ‘Florida is in the bullseye’

By: - September 3, 2021

As with Hurricane Michael in October 2018 and Hurricane Ida this week, climate change is stoking severe weather the likes of which the Gulf Coast has rarely seen before. It starts with heat, which has reached record highs for the last seven years, scientists say. And the heat will get worse, much worse, warns the […]

Prison policy report issues FL prisons an “F” grade for COVID response

By: - September 1, 2021

Florida state prisons had the nation’s third-highest number of COVID-19 deaths among inmates and was 17th highest in its mortality rate, earning an “F” grade for its COVID response in a 50-state analysis by the Prison Policy Initiative, an independent research and advocacy organization that studies mass incarceration. Florida prisons lost 221 inmates to COVID, […]

Fried to DeSantis: State’s top environmental appointment is not his call to make

By: - September 1, 2021

Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Nikki Fried, Florida’s only statewide-elected Democrat, a Cabinet member, and a gubernatorial contender, wrote to Gov. Ron DeSantis late Tuesday cautioning that the appointment of a secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is not entirely up to the governor. Earlier Tuesday, DeSantis announced that interim secretary Shawn Hamilton, […]

Seminole Tribe joins fray in lawsuits over gambling deal bringing sports betting to FL

By: - August 31, 2021

As was inevitable, the plot thickens as Florida’s contentious new gambling laws come under legal attack on multiple fronts. The issues relate to federal court in Washington D.C., and federal court in Tallahassee. On Tuesday, the powerful Seminole Tribe of Florida filed documents in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to intervene in a lawsuit […]

New environmental secretary appointed as Florida ecosystems deteriorate

By: - August 31, 2021

Shawn Hamilton, newly named secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, has a daunting task ahead of him, say environmental experts who have been calling for dramatic changes in policy since Gov. Ron DeSantis was elected. Hamilton has been interim secretary since June 4, when Noah Valenstein departed. He has been at DEP for […]

DeSantis says vaccines are best tool against COVID; but how’s FL doing on the vaccination front?

By: and - August 30, 2021

Back in December, Gov. Ron DeSantis prioritized the elderly population for COVID-19 vaccines, a strategy that went against the status quo and pushed for seniors to get the shots first. Eight months later, CDC data show that 82.1 percent of Florida residents 65 and older are fully vaccinated, slightly higher than the national average. Florida […]

As COVID flares, FL surgeon general Rivkees is on the way out; who will replace him?

By: - August 27, 2021

Rarely seen in public since April 2020, Florida Surgeon General  Scott Rivkees will officially disappear from the Department of Health next month. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, confirmed Friday that Rivkees, who was appointed by DeSantis in June 2019, will depart when his contract expires Sept. 20. Pushaw, in June, told the Florida […]