U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., stopped in Algiers on Wednesday to tout bills that he said would help keep flood insurance premiums from skyrocketing, help people suffering from mental illness and give citizens more control over their health care coverage and its cost.
The legislation — some passed, some proposed — was part of an informal presentation at a town hall meeting the freshman Republican senator held with about 40 constituents at the Algiers Regional Library.
Cassidy, who unseated Democrat Mary Landrieu in last year’s election, opened with a nod to the fact that for many it seems that it’s difficult for working families to get ahead.
“In times past, they made a good living, and in the current time, they struggle,” he said.
Cassidy said 2014 legislation he proposed with former U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., helped delay the astronomical rate increases Louisiana property owners would have faced under a federal law passed two years earlier.
He said he would continue to work to make sure home and business owners don’t see premiums increase exponentially after the law, known as the Biggert-Waters Act, is reauthorized in the coming years.
Cassidy said the strength of Louisiana’s economy is tied to the oil and gas industry, which he pledged to support with any legislation that would help create more jobs.
Even an expansion of the industry in neighboring states and as far away as the Arctic can have an impact on ancillary industries locally, like shipbuilding, he said.
“I like those jobs,” he said, noting higher wages and the opportunity for advancement.
He said he will propose legislation to grant more federal leases for oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, particularly in the eastern portion.
Cassidy said he would fight to have Louisiana keep more of the money for coastal projects when the second phase of the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act kicks in, beginning in 2017.
He said President Barack Obama wants to use some of the money that could go to Louisiana for national parks across the country. “Do you hate Louisiana?” he asked of the president in an amazed tone. “What is it about us that you want to condemn us to our state washing away?”
Cassidy said the Mental Health Reform Act of 2015, which he proposed with Sen. Chris Murphy, D.-Conn., would help overhaul the mental health care system with an emphasis on making sure dollars are spent on giving treatment to those who need it.
“Everyone in this room has a family member or a friend who is affected by major mental illness,” he said.
Cassidy blasted the Affordable Care Act and said he would retool and reintroduce a bill he proposed before the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of the health care law — legislation he said would give people more choice on what coverage they get and how much they pay for it.
Cassidy also vowed to bring more accountability to the Veterans Affairs system, noting he already supported a bill that would allow the VA secretary to fire people who aren’t doing their jobs.
Asked about Medicare, Cassidy said he supports the program and that he thinks the key to its long-term financial stability lies in boosting the economy and phasing in benefits at a later eligibility age.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.