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]

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 […]

After brutal redistricting fight in 2012, FL lawmakers and voters brace for another in 2022

By: - August 27, 2021

With little structure and no clear plan for public participation as COVID rages in Florida, state lawmakers will soon undertake one of their most impactful obligations to voters: redistricting. The detailed 2020 Census data released Aug. 12 — late in the season because of COVID complications — grants Florida one new congressional district based on […]

Moms in ‘liberty’ group fight school mask mandates as COVID spikes in schools

By: - August 24, 2021

In navy T-shirts emblazoned with “Moms for Liberty” in white lettering, a vocal group of mothers has dominated public comments at recent Florida school board meetings, condemning face masks as dangerous to children. As heated discussions continue over mask mandates at schools, the question is, who are these mothers? At the top, they are political […]

Wrongfully convicted Tampa man is going free now after 31 years in prison

By: - August 23, 2021

A man imprisoned for 31 years was ordered freed Monday after investigators and a judge agreed that he was wrongfully convicted of armed burglary and armed robbery in 1990. Tony Hopps, now 56, had a solid but uninvestigated alibi that should have eliminated him as a suspect in the crime, according to a re-investigation by […]

Sarasota becomes 6th FL school district to defy DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates

By: and - August 21, 2021

As three Florida schools and scores of classrooms around the state were shut down by COVID last week, a sixth school district imposed a mask mandate against vitriolic opposition from parents and the prospect of sanctions from the governor and state education officials. The Florida Education Association COVID tracker said that, as of Saturday, 21 […]

School closures reported in five FL counties; districts ‘drowning’ in COVID

By: - August 20, 2021

Florida school districts caught off guard by a whole new COVID pandemic that erupted just as schools were reopening are scrambling to chase down infections and exposures on campus without the resources they need for testing and contact tracing. One Florida school superintendent described it this week as “drowning.” One school each in Charlotte and […]

Hillsborough and Dade join rebellion, defying DeSantis’ masks-in-school order

By: and - August 18, 2021

Amid skyrocketing Delta-driven COVID-19 infections, two of Florida’s largest school districts on Wednesday joined with two other districts in defying a state executive order and imposing mask mandates in public schools without a parental opt-out. The Miami-Dade school board voted, 7-1, for a temporary mask mandate for students, faculty and all visitors, allowing students to […]

Florida hospitals face critical staffing shortages as COVID continues to expand

By: - August 17, 2021

The number of adults and children hospitalized with COVID-19 rose to 16,521 overnight, pushing Florida’s hospitals into critical staffing shortages, the Florida Hospital Association (FHA) said Tuesday. The hospitalized patients include 199 children. “There can be no question that many Florida hospitals are stretched to their absolute limits,” said FHA president and CEO Mary Mayhew […]

Nikki Fried calls on DeSantis to declare state of emergency, accept fed help

By: - August 16, 2021

Citing new state and federal COVID-19 statistics, Florida Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Nikki Fried called on Gov. Ron DeSantis Monday to declare a state of emergency and draw down federal disaster assistance. In her daily announcements of updated COVID data, Fried said Monday that conditions in Florida are becoming dire, yet DeSantis has shown […]

Dire report on global climate forecasts worsening problems in FL

By: - August 11, 2021

Global climate scientists declared “code red for humanity” this week in a report forecasting an actual doomsday for the planet if nations around the world, particularly the largest ones, do not dramatically and quickly reduce pollution destroying the atmosphere. And while Florida is at elevated risk for climate impacts, due to its extensive coastlines, dense population, […]

Massive gambling compact approved; expansion of gambling poised to change FL landscape

By: - August 6, 2021

It’s official.  Federal authorities green-lighted Florida’s gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida on Friday, marking the start of a new cultural era by allowing digital gambling statewide for the first time in Florida history. The 30-year compact, worth $2.5 billion to the state of Florida in just the first five years, was ratified […]

Gambling: Feds’ silence signals green light on compact between FL and Seminole Tribe

By: - August 6, 2021

Florida’s 30-year, multibillion-dollar gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe appears to have passed its federal review by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. Friday marks Day 46 since the compact was submitted by the Tribe for a 45-day review period. Philip Bristol with federal Office of Indian Gaming told the Phoenix on […]