These are the positions I hold on the issues facing the people of the 3rd Congressional District and our country.
Big Money in Politics
Partisan politics and big money are corrupting our democracy, which is why I’m not taking a penny from corporations or PACs.
Government must work for everyone, not just corporations and special interests. That’s why I’ve pledged not to accept money from corporations or PACs.
From national debt to taxation, health care to education, income inequality to equal pay, America is struggling to address serious problems. Moneyed interests are getting what they want, but the rest of us are being ignored.
As a judge for almost 28 years, I took seriously my oath to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States, and to treat each person who came before me with respect regardless of whether they were rich or poor. Our nation was founded on principles of justice and equality for all, not profit and power for a few.
When I am in Washington, I will represent the people of Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District — not Washington D.C. or Wall Street special interests. I will fight for campaign finance reform. Until we end the unlimited influence of lobbyists and dark money in politics, we won’t be able to bring down drug prices or prevent the outsourcing of jobs overseas, or — most importantly — restore the middle class.
We should ban all campaign donations to Congress from lobbyists. Lobbyists should succeed through good arguments, not bribery. I will support campaign finance limits so that average citizens can have a voice in elections.
Finally, I’ll support a constitutional amendment to end the corrupting effect of the Citizens United decision, in which the Supreme Court held that corporations are people and money is free speech. It was wrong to use the constitution to strengthen corporate power, and it has proven dangerous to democracy. Corporations are not people. Profit is their bottom line, not the common good.
I will strive to serve the people of Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District with the same integrity, honesty, and dedication that I brought to my previous years of public service.
Coastal Restoration: Empowering Louisiana to be a Leader
We have already lost 2000 square miles of our coast in Louisiana. We are on track to lose another 2000 square miles in the next 50 years due to multiple factors, including sea level rise, levees which restrict deposits of sedimentation, subsidence, saltwater intrusion from oil and gas activities, and stronger and more frequent storms.
Millions of people in Louisiana and billions of dollars in homes, businesses and infrastructure are at risk due to land loss.
We have a Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast (“Coastal Master Plan”) which was updated in 2017. There were 209 projects on the table when work on the plan started. Ultimately, 124 plans were recommended and a few more were added at the recommendation of lawmakers. The plan calls for a minimum investment of $50 billion in coastal restoration and hurricane protection over the next 50 years. At this level of investment, land loss will be slowed, but not stopped or reversed. Further, the Master Plan is not fully funded at this time and relies on both existing and “potential” funding sources in the future.
According to an analysis by Dr. Timothy P. Ryan (link below), full funding at the $100 billion level “would be able to produce a net land increase over the 50-year period.”
$50 billion over 50 years will produce 109,000 jobs and $3.6 billion in earnings. $100 billion over 50 years will produce 212,000 new jobs with $7 billion in earnings. This investment will drive jobs and tax revenue that can help Louisiana’s coastal communities, many of which are in the 3rd District.
Louisiana has provided the rest of the country decades of affordable domestic energy through service of the oil and gas industry while sacrificing our coast.
Louisiana has provided the rest of the country with a river and port system driving significant national and international commerce while sacrificing our coast through loss of sedimentation.
Louisiana has stood with the country and now the country needs to stand with Louisiana.
We are not asking for a handout. We are asking to be empowered to be a leader in this global challenge. Let us be the laboratory for learning and innovation in how to deal with climate change and coastal land loss. We already have a great start with the Water Institute of the Gulf, which helps coastal communities with applied research and technical services. Let us continue to develop expertise in coastal science and engineering that can be exported around the world. By investing in Louisiana’s coastal challenge, the nation will benefit enormously while we preserve our precious communities, our culture, land and habitat.
Here’s a link to the 2017 Coastal Master Plan.
Here’s a link to a 2014 study by economist Timothy Ryan on the impact of full funding for Coastal Master Plan projects.
Healthcare is a Right
Universal health coverage is a win-win solution for people and small businesses
I believe that access to quality, affordable health care is a right that every family in America should have, especially our children.
Children can’t control the families they are born into, and therefore every child should have access to healthcare that keeps them well and promotes their growth.
As a federal employee, I had a great government-sponsored health plan — just like members of Congress. I never had to worry about being able to access or afford medical care if something happened to me or my children. I believe that every American should have that peace of mind.
I believe that no family in the Third Congressional District should have to take out a second mortgage or face bankruptcy if a child or a breadwinner gets sick or is injured. An affordable, effective health care system allows people to see a provider when it will do the most good, and not wait until a visit to the Emergency Room is the only option.
Likewise, we must immediately rein in the cost of prescription drugs so that people can get their medications regardless of their earnings or employer.
Our eventual goal should be a Medicare-for-All type system, where administrative costs are drastically reduced and the government’s purchasing power is leveraged to keep down premiums and the cost of prescription drugs and treatments.
In the meantime, there are steps we can take to fix the ACA and undo the sabotage done by Republicans so that health coverage is broader, more affordable and more accessible. Creating a public option on the individual market exchanges would fill the gaps in regions where there is only one provider, offering choice and competitive pricing to consumers. We must also address the monopolies that the ACA has created with hospitals, which are driving up the cost of health care.
Smart and Safe on Crime
We can increase public safety while saving tax dollars.
Public safety is one of the most important functions of government. Mass incarceration, however, has made us less safe, even though nationwide it costs taxpayers about $75 billion each year.
I have been a prosecutor and a judge in both federal and state courts. I have presided over thousands of criminal proceedings. One thing I have learned is that Louisiana is not smart on crime.
Louisiana is the prison capital of the world. In 2015, Louisiana spent $622 million incarcerating 38,000 people. Unfortunately, our “tough on crime” approach has not resulted in greater public safety. Instead, it has increased cycles of poverty, unemployment and crime. It has also diverted funds from programs proven to prevent crime before it happens, such as early childhood education, job training, community mental health centers, and first-class substance abuse treatment centers.
We have 12 million arrests a year in this country, yet only 5% are violent offenders. The vast majority of arrests are for low-level crimes – 70-80%. Even more disturbing, two-thirds of prisoners across the country are simply awaiting trial. This is also true of 50% of the inmates in many of our local jails. Most of these pretrial detainees are jailed simply because they are too poor to afford the 12.5% premium charged by the commercial bail bondsmen. This means they lose jobs, and sometimes homes, eligibility for benefits, and family. Without another source of income, some of these detainees resort to learning how to be a better criminal while warehoused in jail. Studies show that high jail populations of low-level non-violent offenders lead to increased crime.
Do we really want to run schools for crime on the taxpayer’s dime?
Our current system criminalizes drug addiction, poverty, and mental illness. Families and communities are destabilized and our recidivism rate is through the roof.
The failed war on drugs has driven mass incarceration, which in turn has driven a prison-industrial complex for private financial gain. In this climate, there are incentives for high arrest rates, especially in poor communities, so that jail beds are kept full, and revenue streams from court assessments and fines can continue to fund local and state institutions. This cycle must stop. We must invest in people, not in crime.
The opioid abuse crisis is finally making us realize that drug abuse is not simply a law-enforcement problem that can be solved through arrests and prosecutions. We must address it with smarter public health policies and education.
A strong public education system is good for our kids, good for business, and good for Louisiana.
Why is Louisiana at the bottom of every list? If we invest in early childhood education and public education in general, we will reap huge benefits in bringing the jobs of the future to Louisiana and keeping our families together.
Louisiana’s business climate has suffered due to low educational attainment in our state. Only 10 percent of high school students are prepared for training in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics-related occupations (STEM). Without a trained workforce, only 3% of jobs in Louisiana currently are STEM jobs. The good news is that can make lots of progress.
I support strong investment in our public education system. Public tax dollars should support public schools. As we have learned in Louisiana, private school vouchers are not an effective way to improve student achievement.
We must support our public school teachers. They are heroes who shouldn’t have to leave the state to earn a fair wage. Their retirements should be protected by ensuring that we do away with the Windfall Elimination Provision.
Teaching to the test has not benefited our children or our teachers. We should take steps to return autonomy to teachers so they can help our kids love learning, not just perform on tests.
Action on Opioids
Immediate action is needed to fight the opioid and heroin epidemic
Prescription drug overdoses kill more adults between the ages of 25 and 64 than do traffic accidents. More than 200,000 Americans died of prescription opioid overdoses in the last 15 years – more than we lost in WWII. Overdose deaths were five times higher in 2016 than in 1999.
The opioid and related heroin epidemic is wrecking lives and families, rich and poor, black, brown and white. Everybody knows someone who has been affected by it. We cannot stand idly by.
The problem is complex and needs solutions on several levels — and quickly. We can’t let partisan politics get in the way of effective policies. The federal government should partner with the states to invest in effective prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programs. Families need the resources to help them start healing.
Electronic prescriptions are better than paper prescription pads to cut down on forgeries and help reduce dosing errors. We should encourage policies that increase the number of doctors using this technology, currently only 8%.
An important step that we can take is to make medical marijuana legal across the United States. Marijuana has been shown to offer an effective, non-addictive path to dealing with chronic pain. As a member of Congress, I’ll fight to ensure that the federal government decriminalizes the use of medical marijuana so that we can put it to work in curbing the opioid epidemic.
We must also bring to justice those who have profited from the opioid epidemic, whether they are on the street, in doctors’ offices, or in corporate boardrooms.
Women and Children’s Healthcare
Women deserve affordable and accessible health care services, and we must improve outcomes for maternal and infant mortality.
Women deserve access to quality, affordable reproductive healthcare services, including family planning help, prenatal care, cervical and breast cancer screenings, testing for and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and annual checkups.
It is unfortunate that the issue of abortion is so divisive, as we are leaving a lot of common ground unexplored. Abortion rates fell to an all-time low in 2014 due to improved access to family planning services. We must continue in this direction. Alternatives to abortion, such as adoption, should be made more accessible. We must also support policies which make bringing children into the world less of an economic and personal crisis for families and single mothers, such as family leave, affordable child care, equal pay and a living wage. Women should not have to choose between having a child and survival. Violence against women and girls, including domestic abuse, rape and incest, must end.
No woman aspires to have an abortion. This can be one of the most difficult and painful decisions ever faced. I support women who are pro-life. I support women who are pro-choice. I support women who change their minds. These are matters of conscience and moral choice taking into account the specific personal and medical factors of the woman involved. Governments should not force women to bear children any more than they should force women to have abortions. Our Constitution protects such intensely private decisions as being at the heart of our concept of personal dignity, autonomy, and liberty. I support these long-established protections of individual rights under the law.
Louisiana ranks 45th in the country in maternal mortality rate (2016) and the rate increased by 28% in 2017. Louisiana is ranked 3rd worst in health outcomes for women and children, in part because we don’t have as many mothers getting prenatal care. Louisiana’s rate of premature births and infant mortality is one of the worst in the nation. We owe those mothers and babies better care and safety.
We must improve access to affordable and quality healthcare, and support policies which benefit women, children and families.
America is founded on the principle that all people possess fundamental human rights, including equal rights to life, liberty, safety, and the pursuit of happiness. We have not always lived up to our aspirations as a country, but we must never give up striving to do so.
Although we have made great strides in pursuit of justice for our LGBTQIA community, we have a long way to go. Federal law does not prohibit discrimination of LGBTQIA people in employment, education, housing and public accommodation. I support measures like the Equality Act which would provide nondiscrimination protections to LGBTQIA Americans on the same terms as provided for other protected classes under federal law.
Despite federal laws on the books, women in the United States earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men. The pay gap for women in Louisiana is much worse — 68 cents for every dollar. And it is even worse for Louisiana’s African-American women, who face the worst pay gap in the nation — 48 cents for every dollar.
I support efforts to ensure pay transparency and equal pay for work that requires equal skill, effort and responsibility, regardless of gender.
Louisiana and Energy
Louisiana is an energy leader. We are poised to lead the way in developing clean-energy technology.
Louisiana has deep and lasting ties to the oil and gas industry, which has brought many jobs to Louisiana and placed our state as the epicenter of energy production and petroleum refining. Unfortunately, technology and automation are driving down employment in the oil and gas industry at the same time as the world market is changing. More and more corporations are adopting sustainability goals which demand renewable energy sources. The price of wind turbines and solar panels has plummeted, making renewables the next big thing in energy.
Louisiana is in a position to adapt and thrive. With all the energy professionals and fabricators in south Louisiana, we should be leading the way in developing new methods of clean-energy technology. We already have fabrication companies in Louisiana which have helped construct steel foundations for offshore wind turbines in Rhode Island and the vessels that support them.
Through further innovation and diversification, we can make sure our kids and grandkids don’t have to leave the state to find jobs. It is not a question of either fossil fuels or clean energy. We should have both.
We also need companies to be responsible partners. We help the industry, and we expect the industry to help us. Corporations which have profited so greatly from Louisiana’s mineral resources should pay their fair share of taxes, help restore Louisiana’s coast to the extent their operations have damaged it, and help protect us from further losses.
The United States should rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and cooperate with other world leaders to address climate change. We are borrowing the planet from our children and grandchildren, and we have a responsibility to be good stewards.
Louisiana is on the front lines of a global transformation. What we learn and how we manage water resources and energy innovation has the potential to be a model for the rest of the world. There is opportunity for Louisiana in this challenge, and we should embrace it.
We can create a path to better jobs through a voluntary national service program.
Education has always offered the surest path for social mobility. Education is the key to our future – the key to ensuring our children have the skills and knowledge they need to get good jobs that support them and their families. That means making college, trade schools and training programs accessible and affordable.
I believe that we should create a voluntary national service program where a young person can choose to commit two years of service to their country and we’ll give them a free education in return. We did this after World War II with the G.I. Bill and it led to the greatest economic boom in the history of the world. This national service could be military or civilian. People could work in community programs around the country helping seniors, restoring wetlands, or raising literacy. The pay would be modest, but we’d offer these young people free tuition at the public institution of their choice.
We already have the AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs which could serve as models for this effort. It would have the great side benefit of improving our democracy — young people would see more of our country and people. Their horizons would be broadened by getting to know other Americans and the places they live.
Gun Rights and Public Safety
Gun ownership is a right and so is public safety. We can have both.
I support the Second Amendment. I grew up with guns. Hunting was one of my dad’s great passions. We grew up eating venison and always had ducks in the freezer from Dad’s hunts at his beloved duck camp in Cameron Parish.
I support the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms. I also support the court’s ruling that society has an important interest in promoting gun safety. Justice Scalia wrote that the Second Amendment “is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
95% of Americans, including the majority of the NRA’s membership, support effective background checks on every person who buys a gun – not just those who purchase from a licensed dealer. Most Americans agree it should not be easier for a teenager to get a weapon than a driver’s license. Yet time and again politicians beholden to the gun lobby vote against the will of the people.
As a member of Congress, I will stand with the veterans and others in Congress who support restrictions on sale of assault weapons such as the AR-15.
I will also support banning extended ammunition clips and bump stocks that turn semi-automatic weapons into machine guns.
The answer to mass murders is not to put more guns in schools, churches and our streets. That is the solution of gun manufacturers. The answer is to pass reasonable gun safety regulations which recognize the difference between weapons for hunting and home defense, and weapons designed for human massacres.