U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy met with Acadiana-area mayors Monday to discuss the potential impacts of bipartisan legislation on infrastructure and guns, both of which Cassidy championed in the senate.
The meeting, held at the Lafayette Consolidated Government building, was primarily on how the mayors could get the most out of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — a bipartisan bill that provides billions of dollars for projects across the state.
"We talked about infrastructure — how can we maximize the benefits of the bipartisan infrastructure bill," Cassidy said. "They're very interested in that."
The act, which passed 69-30 in the U.S. Senate and 221-201 in the U.S. House, would dole out around $1.2 trillion to infrastructure projects nationwide, including expanding access to broadband internet, shoring up the electrical grid and rebuilding or replacing conventional infrastructure, such as roads and bridges.
Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory hosted the roundtable discussion.
“Thank you to Senator Cassidy for taking the time to visit with some of our officials here in Lafayette and getting feedback on our local needs,” Guillory said in a release. “Our infrastructure is something we are all passionate about, and your support for Lafayette is greatly appreciated.”
After the meeting, Cassidy told reporters that one of the things discussed with the mayors was how small municipalities — those that might lack resources like a staff of engineers, for example — might maximize the impact of the infrastructure funding. He said the state legislature made a move to help those areas by dedicating $25 million to create the office to provide those resources to smaller communities.
As part of the bill, the state is expected to receive significant funds for airports, broadband access, roads and bridges and weather resiliency projects, as well as money for coastal restoration and energy-related projects.
Cassidy emphasized the expansion of broadband access, which has the potential to help rural parts of the state and Acadiana. Cassidy's office says that as few as 6% of residents in some Acadiana parishes have access to broadband internet. In other parts of the state, particularly in northeast Louisiana, that percentage is as low as 2%.
"There is again coming to the state probably over a billion dollars to help make sure that every person in Louisiana has access to high-speed, affordable internet, and that's a gamechanger," Cassidy said. "A small town with lovely old homes but poor internet connection is not going to do well. You give them internet connection, and all of a sudden, people start to move back."
The senator also spoke to the mayors about the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at addressing gun violence in the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Cassidy was part of the bipartisan group that brought up the bill, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden on Saturday.
Biden has said it is the first time in 30 years that the "nation passed meaningful gun safety laws."
Cassidy has faced criticism from fellow Louisiana Republicans for his involvement with the law, which requires an enhanced background check for firearms purchasers under 21, adds convicted domestic violence abusers in dating relationships to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and creates a $750-million pot of money for states that enact red flag laws. The act also provides a significant investment in mental health services and school safety initiatives.
.@LAHouseGOP Chair @BlakeMiguezLA attacks @SenBillCassidy for role in gun safety bill: 'I'm disappointed in R's who joined D's to pass gun control. US Sen. 'Butch' Cassidy robbed the Trump train and now running off with law-abiding citizens’ 2nd Amendment rights' #lalege #lasen
— Greg Hilburn (@GregHilburn1) June 24, 2022
Blake Miguez, the chair of the Louisiana House Republicans, said Cassidy "robbed the Trump train and now running off with law-abiding citizens’ 2nd Amendment rights."
On Monday, Cassidy repeatedly said the act strengthened protections for law-abiding gun owners while preventing bad actors from getting their hands on weapons. Cassidy said he did not get an indication on whether the Acadiana mayors supported the act, though he said the 2015 Lafayette theater shooting remained fresh on the minds of many in the region.
"When you talk about providing mental health resources, they're all for it. When you're talking about increasing the penalties for someone who buys a gun and slips it to a criminal, they're for that," Cassidy said. "Rampage shooting in Lafayette, everyone knows about that.
"There were heads nodding yes, but I didn't take a poll — 'Do you want to do something about gun violence?' But I suspect if I had taken that poll — 'Do you want to do something about gun violence while strengthening Second Amendment rights?' — every hand would have gone up."
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This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Cassidy talks bipartisan gun bill, infrastructure funding in Lafayette