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]

algae bloom

Bill would raise penalties for pollution and ‘shame’ offending municipalities

By: - February 11, 2020

Florida lawmakers hoping to reduce the pollution choking bays, lagoons, and other waterways are proposing stiffer fines against cities around the state for spilling untreated sewage and other illegal discharges. Gov. Ron DeSantis called for such measures last fall to help reduce water pollution plaguing many waterways in south Florida. One bill (CS/HB 1091) sponsored […]

Women won right to vote in 1920 but still fighting in 2020 to get ERA heard in FL Capitol

By: - February 10, 2020

As the nation commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment – granting women the right to vote –conservative leaders of the Florida Legislature still have not scheduled a single hearing this session on the long-fought Equal Rights Amendment that would guarantee gender equality. Bipartisan, bicameral groups led by female state legislators will celebrate the […]

climate heat air

At session midpoint, FL lawmakers continue to ignore clean-energy bills that could slow harmful climate change

By: - February 10, 2020

Despite recently acknowledging that climate change is real and increasingly dangerous, the Republican-controlled Legislature still is advancing virtually no legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Florida. Those gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels such as gasoline and coal, are accumulating in the atmosphere at a rate the World Meteorological Organization says will cause a […]

A 'monster' of plastic litter stands outside Florida's historic capitol as Catherine Uden, Southast Florida campaign organizaer for Oceana, calls on lawmakers to reduce plastic waste. Photo: Laura Cassels

Plastics ‘monster’ haunts Capitol to call for waste reduction

By: - February 6, 2020

A 15-foot-tall monster made of thousands of pieces of plastic litter was in the Florida Capitol this week to illustrate how much plastic enters the oceans: more than 8 million metric tons (18 billion pounds) per year, according to the nonprofit Oceana. Greenpeace, Oceana and others came to Tallahassee to put plastics pollution in plain […]

Moms condemn lengthy prison terms as Senate weighs sentencing reforms

By: - February 6, 2020

Mothers of young men behind bars implored Florida lawmakers this week to reform decades-old sentencing guidelines that they say are unjust, excessive, and devastating to families. “If there’s no changes, my son will stay in prison until his death,” said Brenda Kay Spitzbarth, whose son, Dustin Sims, is serving life for armed robbery. “A life […]

Sunscreen battle pits FL Republicans against Key West, Hawaii, FDA, and members of Congress

By: - February 4, 2020

While Republican lawmakers in Florida rush to pass legislation shielding all sunscreens from local government restrictions, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, two Florida members of Congress, the city of Key West, and the state of Hawaii are working in the opposite direction. Their reason: Suspicion that certain sunscreen ingredients may harm humans as well […]

FL Senate votes to block cities from banning some sunscreens, while FDA casts doubt on ingredient safety

By: - January 30, 2020

The Florida Senate has voted to block cities from banning certain sunscreens, claiming use of the products should be encouraged to help protect people from skin cancer, despite concerns about the products’ impact on coral reefs. But in Hawaii, state lawmakers are moving to outlaw many sunscreens due to human health concerns raised by the […]

Interfaith coalition speaks out against proposed abortion restrictions: ‘We won’t go back’

By: - January 29, 2020

As a young nurse, Minerva Velez-Glidden’s first patient was a 14-year-old girl infected with sepsis following a botched attempt to terminate a pregnancy. The nurse learned that the girl had been raped by her uncle. “At the age of 14, she had to have a hysterectomy,” Velez-Glidden said in Tallahassee Tuesday. During her career, Velez-Glidden […]

DeSantis moves to consolidate power; Fried pushes back to keep Office of Energy

By: - January 28, 2020

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is moving in on Democratic Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried’s turf – and she’s not happy about it. Fried has denounced as politically motivated legislation being pushed by the governor to shift the state Office of Energy out of her department. “It’s partisan punishment and another power grab,” […]

Compensation claim filed for man freed after 11 years on Death Row

By: - January 27, 2020

A Honduran immigrant wrongfully sentenced to death for the 2004 stabbing murders of two Altamonte Springs women is seeking compensation for the 14 years he spent behind bars, 11 of them on Death Row. Clemente Aguirre-Jarquin, a neighbor of the victims, maintained his innocence throughout his incarceration. He was convicted in 2006 of murdering Cheryl […]

A century ago, black residents of Ocoee were killed or forced from their homes for trying to vote

By: - January 24, 2020

One-hundred years ago, a deadly riot tore through the Orange County town of Ocoee after whites lynched a prosperous African-American landowner for trying to vote in a presidential election and for encouraging others to vote. Florida Sen. Randolph Bracy, an Orange County Democrat, wants the state to pay reparations to descendants of  victims of the […]


Progressives condemn the state’s conservative attacks on home rule

By: - January 23, 2020

Labor representatives, environmentalists, LGBTQ supporters, and others gathered in the Capitol Thursday to condemn legislative attacks on home rule that are killing progressive policies at the local level. The preemptions are designed to overrule local government bans on single-use plastics and foam containers and so-called conversion therapy; to protect trees and coral reefs; mandate worker-friendly […]