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]

Gov. DeSantis will continue the court fight to block voting rights for felons

By: - May 26, 2020

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday his administration will continue to fight to block full implementation of Constitutional Amendment 4, which would restore felons’ voting rights in Florida. DeSantis told reporters his administration will appeal a court order issued Sunday, with the legal battle headed back to the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “I […]

Due to steep losses, FL farmers are eligible for federal coronavirus relief

By: - May 26, 2020

Florida farmers who have had crops, dairy and livestock go to waste during the pandemic are eligible for federal relief, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday. The USDA will administer $16 billion in Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) funding to help American farmers, said Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried. Fried’s office […]

‘Work search questions’ to get FL unemployment benefits lead to confusion, stress, and no payments

By: - May 21, 2020

Confusion and obstacles blocking unemployment payments to jobless Floridians continued to mount Thursday, as two Florida senators explained that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “waiver” of work-search requirements has been rolled back — unbeknownst to many applicants. The waiver may have conflicted with federal law, State Sen. Randolph Bracy said in a conference call Thursday. “The work-search requirement […]

More secrecy: Another Trump-connected inmate leaving federal prison while thousands struggle to escape COVID-19

By: - May 21, 2020

With thousands of inmates in highly-infected prisons still behind bars, another Trump-connected federal inmate is leaving early and under unusual circumstances, raising questions about who gets out and who stays in federal prisons across the country. Michael Cohen, longtime personal attorney for President Donald Trump, was  released early from federal prison on Thursday amid health […]

Despite President Trump’s criticisms, FL elections supervisors say mail-in ballots are safe

By: - May 20, 2020

Regardless of what President Donald Trump thinks, says and tweets, Florida elections supervisors are urging voters to request mail-in ballots to ensure every valid vote is counted as the presidential election looms. “Voting by mail is a safe way to go. It’s a secure process in Florida. In my 26 years of elections experience, I’ve […]

Wildfire scorches nearly 8,700 acres in Collier; drought continues, fueling risk of more fires

By: - May 18, 2020

A wildfire burning on 8,663 acres in southwest Florida near Naples has destroyed 12 homes and 33 buildings, the Florida Forest Service reported Monday at a news conference. At midday, only half of the “38th Avenue Southeast” fire in Collier County was contained (surrounded) by fire breaks built and managed by firefighters, meaning half of […]

Southern Poverty Law Center sues for access to state prison records as COVID-19 spreads among inmates

By: - May 15, 2020

The Southern Poverty Law Center is demanding public records about state inmates at risk of contracting COVID-19 behind bars and is suing the Florida Department of Corrections to release them, the center announced Friday. “The public has a right to know how FDC [the Department of Corrections] is handling COVID-19 in the prisons, which incarcerate […]

Most COVID-19 infections in rural counties are often in state prisons

By: - May 14, 2020

As state prison authorities expand testing among inmates and employees, the extent of COVID-19 behind bars is becoming evident, even in prisons in rural counties where rates of infection in the general population are very low. Hamilton Correctional Institution, near the state line in north Florida, is the latest of the rural state prisons to […]

Trump ally Manafort is out but Bureau of Prisons is keeping secret other federal inmates released to “home confinement”

By: - May 13, 2020

President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort got out of federal prison Wednesday to serve in home confinement, but thousands of eligible inmates remain behind bars despite federal orders to release them to reduce infections and deaths caused by coronavirus in prisons. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has refused to disclose any details about […]

State prisons report more COVID-19 flareups; death toll at nine

By: - May 12, 2020

Two additional state prisons are reporting outbreaks of COVID-19, according to the Florida Department of Corrections, which said it is ramping up supplies of protective equipment for staff, medical equipment for patients, and cloth masks for inmates in those facilities. A broad round of coronavirus testing at Homestead Correctional Institution in south Dade County revealed […]

Fire conditions continue to threaten FL Panhandle; some 3,600 acres are burning

By: - May 11, 2020

Some 3,600 acres of forest have burned in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties in the Panhandle, and the risk of new blazes continues to rise, according to the Florida Forest Service. Both of the fires in the two counties are 75 percent contained, meaning firefighters have used a variety of practices to halt the advance […]

wildlfire 5-7-20

Severe fire threat spreads throughout FL as dry winds fuel blazes across thousands of acres

By: - May 8, 2020

Wildfires burned nearly 2,600 acres in the Panhandle this week, and firefighters braced for another tough day of red-flag conditions Friday despite some anticipated help from lower winds and higher humidity. The Florida Forest Service issued “very high” fire-danger warnings Friday for eight counties in north and northwest Florida and seven more counties elsewhere. It […]