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]

Senate panel approves Florida Forever funding and fracking ban

By: - November 4, 2019

Marking the fifth anniversary of Florida’s constitutional amendment to buy and preserve environmentally sensitive land, a Senate committee voted Monday to allocate $100 million a year to fund the program. The Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative has not been fully funded since its adoption by voters on Nov. 4, 2014. The Senate Committee on […]

Florida faces ‘environmental collapse’; Sierra Club demands action

By: - October 25, 2019

The Sierra Club of Florida says dysfunction at the state government level is steering the Sunshine State toward environmental and economic collapse. Environmental groups will continue to work for improvements, but action by Florida’s cities and counties may be the state’s best hope to minimize the damage, says Frank Jackalone, Florida director of the Sierra […]

Elected Broward sheriff removed; Gov. DeSantis expands his power

By: - October 23, 2019

Over Democratic protests, the Republican-led Florida Senate voted 25-15 Wednesday to remove the elected sheriff of Broward County, following the lead of Gov. Ron DeSantis after months of debate over whether the governor overstepped his authority. Some senators called the move a dangerous precedent, while others said the removal represents justice for students and staff […]

Turtle-poaching cases marked secret; What’s going on?

By: - October 23, 2019

Arrest records of two Fort Myers men charged last week with poaching thousands of Florida turtles mostly for sale in Asian markets are marked confidential in Lee County court records. The Phoenix, inquiring whether the men are in custody and the status of their cases, could not reach law-enforcement authorities Wednesday who might answer those […]

Bill Galvano

FL Senate convenes for dramatic vote over a suspended sheriff and the power of a governor

By: - October 23, 2019

Two mass shootings in Broward County, poignant testimony from parents of slain students, a death threat against a hearing officer, claims of voting-rights infringement, and allegations of high-level political arm-twisting are among the subplots in Wednesday’s special session of the Florida Senate. The chamber will vote on whether to uphold or overturn Gov. Ron DeSantis’ […]

Senators weigh Gov. DeSantis’ suspension of Broward sheriff amid testimony about deadly mistakes

By: - October 21, 2019

Update: The Florida Senate Rules Committee voted late Monday along party lines to uphold Gov. Ron DeSantis’ suspension of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, overturning a special master’s recommendation to reinstate the sheriff. The full Senate will consider the Rules Committee’s recommendation on Wednesday. Members of the Florida Senate’s powerful Rules Committee clashed Monday over […]

Tensions are high as FL Senate judges Broward sheriff accused of incompetence in mass shootings

By: - October 21, 2019

The Florida Senate convenes in special session today – under the cloud of a death threat against a hearing officer – to decide whether to reinstate Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, accused of incompetence for his officers’ handlings of two mass shootings. Senate President Bill Galvano heightened security measures around proceedings this week. The case […]

Florida farmers question state Ag rules on hemp crops

By: - October 18, 2019

Future hemp farmers of Florida fear that proposed rules for cultivating and producing hemp contain big flaws, especially restrictions on seeds and methods for testing crops for over-the-limit concentrations of psychoactive THC. The concerns came at a public hearing Friday, where the Florida Department of Agriculture’s draft hemp rules were discussed. Chris Topping of Cedar […]

FL Senate reacts to death threat in suspended Broward sheriff case

By: - October 17, 2019

The special master who recommended reinstatement of suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel has received a death threat, prompting security concerns about next week’s Florida Senate special session reviewing the recommendation. Special Master Dudley Goodlette concluded from his investigation that Gov. Ron DeSantis failed to prove that Israel was incompetent or negligent in regard to […]

Attorney General to investigate vaping sales and marketing at some FL companies

By: - October 16, 2019

Citing an “epidemic” of vaping among Florida’s youth, state Attorney General Ashley Moody announced Wednesday she will investigate the marketing and sales of e-cigarettes at more than 20 companies operating in Florida. Moody said an April study by the Florida Department of Health’s Tobacco-Free Florida Bureau found a 58 percent increase in vaping among high […]

No more denying on climate change, says a GOP chair in state Senate

By: - October 16, 2019

Just a few years ago, some GOP colleagues “emotionally shut down” when confronted with climate-change science and the urgency of addressing it, Republican State Sen. Tom Lee recalls. Today, “There is a younger generation of conservatives in this state that aren’t so much in denial,” said Lee, who represents parts of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk […]

Photo of hemp plant

Hemp hype? Some observers fear the state is setting up small farmers for failure

By: - October 16, 2019

Hemp — the hip, new superstar of the agriculture world — is getting a lot of buzz within farming and political circles in Florida and nationally. But hemp harvests this fall aren’t matching the hype, portending disaster for small growers while manufacturers and retailers stand to get rich. Nikki Fried, Florida’s commissioner of Agriculture and […]