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]

Corrections nominee would face woefully inadequate prison staffing; environmental protection head would face ‘power grab’

By: - February 28, 2022

The acting head of Florida’s beleaguered prison system advanced toward confirmation after reiterating to state senators at a hearing Monday that staffing and programming remain woefully inadequate. The senators voted Monday to recommend Ricky Dixon for confirmation as secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections, and they voted to recommend confirmation of Shawn Hamilton as […]

Election laws: FL Senate Dems fight changes they say are built on fear tactics

By: - February 24, 2022

Black state senators on Thursday condemned plans to further tighten how Florida regulates voters — including creating an elections police force — with one of them describing the effort as rife with “fear tactics” built on misinformation. “Fear tactics is what divides people. And much of that is what’s in part of this bill [Senate […]

Climate-induced flooding: FL planning its defense but leaves causes unaddressed

By: - February 22, 2022

Sea-level rise and inland flooding that will damage thousands of homes and cause billions of dollars in real-estate losses in Florida were high-priority subjects Tuesday in a Senate Appropriations hearing. That subcommittee approved two bills authorizing a defense, but neither attempts to reduce air pollution that causes climate change and worsening flooding. The Senate Appropriations […]

With gambling expansion in disarray, FL Senate moves ahead with new gaming commission

By: - February 17, 2022

Although Florida’s 2021 compact to expand gambling statewide was struck down in federal court, the Florida Senate Thursday forged ahead with development of a Florida Gaming Control Commission created alongside the compact to regulate expanded gambling. The Nov. 22 ruling is being appealed, with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Department of Interior and the […]

DeSantis pitches FL for ‘Vacation To Freedom’ from COVID restrictions — despite continued pandemic

By: - February 15, 2022

The governor who once ordered inbound motorists and air travelers from COVID hot spots to self-isolate before traveling within Florida now invites the world to come for a “vacation to freedom.” “You can come to Florida and you can do what you want to do. You’re not going to be forced to show medical papers. […]

FL TaxWatch calls for restoration of Ocklawaha River ecosystem

By: - February 15, 2022

An environmental mistake that killed a river and drowned at least 20 natural freshwater springs in north-central Florida should be undone by Florida lawmakers, government watchdog Florida TaxWatch reported Tuesday in an analysis of the long-dammed Ocklawaha River. The report – titled “A River (No Longer) Runs Through It” — says legislators should breach the […]

Congressional redistricting: FL Supreme Court says no to DeSantis

By: - February 10, 2022

In a victory for voting-rights organizations, the Florida Supreme Court will not grant Gov. Ron DeSantis’ wish for an advisory opinion on congressional redistricting that critics said would short-circuit the legislative process. Instead, five justices issued a unanimous order declining to exercise their discretion to issue such an opinion, citing in part their lack of […]

Exec: Aging condos like the one that fell in Surfside need financial watchdogs

By: - February 10, 2022

Aging condos in Florida should be certified as safe every three years, not every 10 and certainly not every 40 as required in current law, said an executive with the finance company that warned of impending disaster before the June 2021 collapse of a 12-story condo in Surfside. Ninety-eight people were killed in the disaster. […]

FL prisons: Personnel are working in ‘very dangerous situations as we speak’

By: - February 8, 2022

The Florida Senate’s leading criminal-justice reformers voted Tuesday in support of a new leader for the state prisons system, after requiring the nominee to publicly verify how bad conditions have become behind bars. “You’re not supposed to show us how great everything is but how awful everything is, so we can help you,” said Senate […]

FL Supreme Court ponders DeSantis’ congressional redistricting questions

By: - February 7, 2022

Florida’s newest member of Congress, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, added her voice Monday to debate over whether the Florida Supreme Court should opine on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed congressional redistricting plan. Cherfilus-McCormick’s lawyers wrote in a brief that DeSantis’ plan discriminates against Florida’s Black voters. She argues that his request for an advisory opinion from the court, […]

FL lawmaker: Changing election laws that worked well ‘did not make sense to me’

By: - February 4, 2022

Republican state lawmakers who changed Florida’s election laws last year used highly unusual tactics to pass reforms they promoted in the name of election integrity, a Democratic lawmaker testified Friday. As a witness in a federal trial seeking to overturn the new law, Democratic state Rep. Geraldine Thompson said 2021’s SB 90 purports to keep […]

solar rooftop

Rooftop solar fans cry foul when their testimony is cut short

By: - February 4, 2022

In a Capitol committee room packed with people who traveled long distances to say their piece, a bill involving rooftop solar and net metering — described by its own sponsor as an unfinished product — was voted up 13-3 Thursday after public testimony was shut down with scores of people left unheard. Sixty-six people requested […]