Cassidy would end support
U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy said Monday that he supports eliminating funding for public broadcasting and studying — before acting on — decriminalizing the use of illegal drugs.
Rufus Craig Jr. and Richard “RPT” Torregano, his two opponents for the 6th District congressional seat, which covers much of the Baton Rouge area, said they backed legalizing marijuana and continuing to fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The three congressional candidates, all from Baton Rouge, answered questions posed at a Press Club of Baton Rouge forum.
They mostly agreed on the need for the federal government to balance its budget and all three generally opposed the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Republican Cassidy is seeking a third two-year term in the Nov. 6 election. He reported to federal regulators a campaign war chest of about $1.8 million as of the end of June.
Craig said he is close to collecting more than $5,000 in contributions, which would be enough to file a campaign finance disclosure. Torregano said he has not raised enough money to require filing a report with the Federal Election Commission.
The Libertarian Party platform includes legalization of marijuana and the end of the “War on Drugs.” Craig, the Libertarian candidate and a Baton Rouge lawyer, said he backs his party’s stance on these issues.
“I’m not advocating the use of drugs. I’m suggesting the societal response shouldn’t be to put the people in jail,” Craig said. “I have been practicing law almost 30 years. I have watched as there has been an endless procession of young people” pass through the criminal justice system for breaking drug use laws.
Torregano said, “We have spent so much money trying to overcome this problem of illegal drugs entering the United States. I am specifically talking about marijuana, just marijuana … I want to see the money that we have spent put to better use.”
Cassidy said he opposes legalization. “An across-the-board legalization of drugs is something I would like to see studied a little bit more,” he said.
“In terms of marijuana, that should be an issue decided by the states,” Cassidy said.
At least 11 states — most recently, Rhode Island — and several large cities have stripped criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Full legalization of marijuana is on the ballot this November in Colorado and Oregon. The use of marijuana for medical purposes is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia.
The candidates also split on whether the Corporation for Public Broadcasting should continue to receive federal funds.
GOP contender Mitt Romney said during the Oct. 3 presidential debate that he opposed giving federal dollars to public television and public radio. “I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for,” Romney said.
Cassidy agreed with his party’s standard bearer, saying: “I would not use federal tax dollars, which means I would not spend your tax dollars to support” public broadcasting.
CPB was appropriated $445 million by the federal government for the 2013 Fiscal Year, which began Oct. 1, according to its budget. That’s less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the $3.8 trillion federal budget.
Of that $445 million, the CPB is slated to give local public television stations about $223 million and about $69.3 million in direct grants to local public radio stations.
The federal government spends about $900 billion more than it collects in revenues, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis.
“Public funding is important, as I appreciate, because it makes up 10-15 percent of their (local stations’) budgets,” Craig said, adding that he is a big fan of public radio and public television.
Torregano said of continued funding, “I would support it.”
Cassidy’s redrawn 6th Congressional District includes parts of Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Lafourche, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. John the Baptist, Terrebonne and West Baton Rouge parishes along with all of Livingston and Pointe Coupee parishes.
About 585,000 of the district’s roughly 756,000 residents live in Baton Rouge neighborhoods and suburbs in neighboring parishes.