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.

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 […]

Redistricting: Senate votes to send new FL legislative districts to state Supreme Court for review; congressional maps on hold

By: - February 3, 2022

New maps defining Florida’s House and Senate legislative voting districts are approved and heading to the Florida Supreme Court for review, following a Senate vote Thursday. The Senate voted 37-0 to approve a new map of 120 House districts that was approved Wednesday in the House on a 77-39 partisan vote. Dissenting House Democrats argued […]

FBI probes bomb threats against HBCUs; campuses reopen after no explosives are found

By: - February 2, 2022

More than 20 FBI field offices around the nation are investigating a series of bomb threats characterized as “hate crimes” against Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and unidentified “houses of worship” but have found no explosives at the sites, the agency announced Wednesday. The statement did not say whether the threatened houses of worship, […]

Nation is watching: FL League of Women Voters president blasts SB 90 on Day 1 in federal trial

By: - January 31, 2022

League of Women Voters of Florida President Cecile Scoon testified Monday in federal court that Florida’s new election laws — adopted in 2021 Senate Bill 90 — makes voter-registration drives, voting by mail, and rendering basic assistance to voters in line needlessly difficult, resulting in voting suppression. Scoon is the first witness to testify in […]

As hard freeze hits FL, farmers and homeless people brace for rough weekend

By: - January 28, 2022

Homeowners, farmers and homeless shelters in Florida were bracing Friday for a weekend of freezing cold, with landscapes, crops and homeless people in harm’s way. The freezing air is part of a winter storm affecting the entire Eastern seaboard. It will move into Florida tonight, with weekend low temperatures in the low 20s, and freezing […]

Clash over election rules pits civil-rights groups vs. state, national Republicans

By: - January 28, 2022

In a voting-rights case that will have national ramifications, Florida’s Republican governor, top members of his administration, and two Republican national committees will convene in federal court Monday to defend Florida’s 2021 election reforms against state, national, and local plaintiffs who say the reforms suppress voting by Black voters, Latino voters, and others. At issue […]

Legislative districts map clears last House panel; critics say minority voters get slighted

By: - January 26, 2022

Although Florida’s population is significantly more diverse than a decade ago, the legislative districts mapped out for debate in the state House of Representatives are not. The map approved 17-7 on Wednesday in the House Redistricting Committee contains the same number of districts likely to elect a minority representative as the retiring map: 30. Those […]

DeSantis’ pick for FL surgeon general likely to face heat at first confirmation hearing

By: - January 25, 2022

A hearing that likely will vent all the fury of COVID politics in Florida is set for Wednesday in the state Senate, when Dr. Joseph Ladapo will appear before a panel judging his nomination by Gov. Ron DeSantis to continue serving as the state’s surgeon general. Ladapo has held the post since Sept. 21. The […]