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]

Census field work on pause because of pandemic

By: - March 19, 2020

U.S. Census field operations are suspended through April 1 in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The Census Bureau announced Wednesday that the 2020 Census count will continue through self-reporting done online and by mail, but field work and the process of hiring field workers to visit people who have not responded will temporarily stand down. […]

Gov. DeSantis calls for NYC flight cutbacks because of coronavirus fears

By: - March 14, 2020

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has called on the Trump Administration to restrict flights into Florida from coronavirus hot spots including New York. The governor said domestic flights from highly infected New York City pose a special threat to Florida and should be shut down, as were overseas flights that brought infected passengers to Florida from […]

high school classroom, school, education

Amid confusion over state instructions, some FL districts are extending spring break, keeping kids out of school longer

By: - March 14, 2020

Amid some confusion over who ordered what, some Florida school districts announced Friday night they are extending their spring breaks by one week in response to state and federal guidance about the spread of coronavirus. The Florida Department of Education announced Friday that Commissioner Richard Corcoran “provided strong recommendations” county by county on Friday. Statements […]

Teacher in her classroom

Ryan Petty narrowly confirmed to State Board of Education despite demeaning statements

By: - March 13, 2020

Over strong objections from some senators, Republican Ryan Petty narrowly won confirmation Friday to serve on the State Board of Education, overseeing one of the largest public school systems in the country. Petty is the father of Alaina Petty, one of 17 students and staff gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February […]

‘Donna’s Law’ could spur prosecutions of sexual crimes against minors

By: - March 12, 2020

“Donna’s Law,” lifting the statute of limitations on prosecuting sexual abuse of minors, has passed in the Florida Legislature and been sent to the governor to be signed into law. Named for rape victim Donna Hedrick of Orlando, legislation approved in the Senate and the House removes deadlines that prevented many survivors from bringing charges […]

FL’s first climate-change bill goes to the governor; no more tax dollars for projects threatened by sea-level rise

By: - March 11, 2020

The Legislature adopted Florida’s first tangible climate-change legislation Wednesday, marking an historic shift following a decade of denial that climate change is real. The legislation (SB 178) approved in the House Wednesday and in the Senate Monday bars the use of tax dollars on any public construction project in a coastal zone until specified studies […]

Lawmakers adopt bill blocking local sunscreen bans

By: - March 10, 2020

The Florida House voted Tuesday to prevent local governments from banning certain sunscreen ingredients that are believed to harm coral reefs and are under investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Senate passed the legislation early in the session, so it now goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature or veto. The […]

Clifford Williams, wrongfully imprisoned for 43 years, wins compensation; vows to fight for other inmates

By: - March 10, 2020

For 43 years, Clifford Williams, serving time for murder, insisted from behind bars that he didn’t do it. It was true. Last year, attorneys unraveled the flimsy case that sent Williams to Death Row in 1976, and he was set free. On Tuesday, the state of Florida approved financial compensation for him in remorse for […]

Statewide water quality bill poised to pass, amid mixed feelings

By: - March 9, 2020

Florida lawmakers are poised to adopt water-pollution cleanup legislation described as an historic advance or a weak measure. The sponsor, Sen. Debbie Mayfield, aimed to put in place recommendations of the state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force, calling for reductions in pollution sources such as poorly maintained sewer systems, septic tanks, stormwater runoff, and agricultural runoff. […]

Term limits for utility regulation consumer advocate picks up major amendment in Senate

By: - March 6, 2020

Legislation to term-limit the state’s chief consumer advocate on regulation of electric and other utilities advanced in the Florida Senate Friday, although with an amendment grandfathering the advocate serving now. Bill sponsor Sen. Wilton Simpson, a central Florida Republican, said he was inspired by legislative term limits that apply to senators and House members. “The […]

Cruise lines ease cancellation policies amid coronavirus fears; VP Pence expected in FL for meetings

By: - March 6, 2020

Cruise lines began softening their cancellation policies this week, reflecting consumer concerns about the global spread of coronavirus and a few, high-profile reports of disease outbreaks at sea. Several cruise destinations, including locales in the Caribbean, are refusing to receive certain cruise ships to reduce spread of the virus, according to sources including Cruise Industry […]

Coronavirus: Fourth FL case confirmed while state waits on supply of testing kits

By: and - March 6, 2020

The number of confirmed infections with coronavirus was unchanged in Florida Friday, as compared to the day before, while the number of sick people testing negative for the virus actually increased to 55, according to data released by the Florida Department of Health. The online report confirms, as expected, a fourth positive case reported Thursday […]