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]

Polluted waters: Will FL lawmakers insist on tough cleanup measures?

By: - February 20, 2020

Toxic algae blooms, red tide, chronic sewage spills and agricultural runoff are fouling Florida waterways, creating hazards to humans and marine life and making a smelly mess of waterfront communities once renowned for clean beaches and clean water. Legislation backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis might decontaminate those polluted waters, but might not, with clean-water advocates […]

Electric-vehicle bill picks up an odd passenger: fuel pipelines

By: - February 18, 2020

A bill to build electric-vehicle charging stations on Florida highways has turned into a broader piece of legislation that alarms clean-energy advocates. The advocates fear the overhauled bill could allow more construction of fuel pipelines for oil and gas in rural areas protected by conservation easements. What happened was that Republican State Sen. Tom Lee […]

DOT damage-avoidance graphic fails to ease fears about new highways through wild Florida

By: - February 14, 2020

Florida transportation authorities released a map this week showing areas designated for little or no damage from construction of three new highways through rural parts of Florida. These apparently did little to allay fears that the massive projects will destroy the state’s last wild and rural landscapes. The map, called an “avoidance graphic,” indicate sites […]

Source: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Chief science officer defends water-quality bills that critics argue are deeply flawed

By: - February 13, 2020

Florida Chief Science Officer Tom Frazer on Thursday defended his praise of water-quality legislation that environmentalists say is designed to fail and protects polluters. “I stand by my statement [published in the Sarasota Bradenton-Herald] that SB 712 is one of the most progressive and comprehensive pieces of legislation that we have seen in over a […]

U.S. House votes to remove ERA obstacle; FL lawmakers split

By: and - February 13, 2020

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted on Thursday to remove one barrier to adding the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but plenty of legal and political obstacles remain. The House voted 232-183 on Thursday — largely along partisan lines — to approve a resolution that would remove an expired congressional deadline for ratification of a constitutional […]

Huh? Clean-water groups say chief science officer is missing the point

By: - February 12, 2020

Clean-water organizations lobbying for strong legislation to clean up water pollution in Florida are calling upon the state’s chief science officer to “set the record straight” after he highly praised what they consider weak proposals advancing in the Legislature. They want sponsors of leading water-quality bills to add teeth and financial support and to close […]

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 […]