Matt Willard Bows Out of Council D Race; Still More To Do at Legislature

Photo Source: Louisiana House of Representatives

District 97 State Rep. Matthew Willard announced today that he has decided not to seek the open City Council District D seat. “I don’t feel my job is done in Baton Rouge. There is so much more to do,” said Willard, a first term legislator representing Gentilly.  

Willard said it was a tough decision. “It’s not appropriate to ask for support for the City Council when I have only served a few years in the Legislature. I am not a fan of people who jump seats.” Willard said he heard from many neighborhood association leaders who wanted him to run. He has had been praying about the race since December and did a lot of self-reflection. “I received silence in my prayers. That was a sign to me that I needed to stay put.”

The timing was also a concern to Willard. “We are about to start the redistricting process. If I went to the City Council I didn’t know when my legislative seat would be filled. District 97 needs representation during redistricting,” Willard explained.

Willard said the decision had to be evaluated beyond just him. “I looked at the needs of the city and the needs of the state. I expect a big field to qualify for the seat. Hopefully, the winner will bring new energy and fresh ideas. I have been giving the district’s needs a lot of thought and I have many concerns. I look forward to sitting down with the new councilmember to share my vision. I feel Council District D has been neglected,” said Willard.

Willard also talked about his work in Baton Rouge. “Last year was my first year. I learn best on my feet, being thrown into the fire.” Willard said was grateful for the knowledge gained last year which aided his current work. 

Willard is most proud of his work on HB 143, a statewide constitutional amendment which will be on the fall ballots around Louisiana. A product of his close relationship with Assessor Errol Williams, HB 143 limits to 10% the annual property tax increase for any residential property with a homestead exemption.  “This was a huge, personal victory,” said Willard. He believes the legislation goes a long way in helping citizens, especially the elderly, keep their homes during an era when gentrification and short-term rentals are driving up property values.

“Orleans Parish has the highest property tax rate increases for homes in Louisiana. I am working with Assessor Williams on an informational campaign for the constitutional amendment. It’s a local only bill, desperately needed, that affects just residents of Orleans Parish. It has nothing to do with state taxes. I urge voters outside Orleans Parish to vote for it or not vote on it at all,” Willard suggested.

Willard also introduced HB 707, the Fair Chance in Hiring Act, a “Ban the Box” bill that applied to the private sector. When making a hiring decision, an employer cannot consider an arrest record or charge that did not result in a conviction, if such information is received in the course of a background check.

The legislation also calls for the employer to consider other types of criminal history records and for the employer to make an individual assessment of whether an applicant’s criminal history record has a direct and adverse relationship with the specific duties of the job that may justify denying the applicant the position.  

“I am very excited about the passage of this legislation too. It is tough to pass criminal justice reform bills when they apply to the private sector,” said Willard. He will be working with the LABI to educate their members about the new law. Willard believes that the community has an obligation to help the formerly incarcerated find gainful employment. “If we don’t help people find jobs, they will most likely end up in the same circumstances which will only increase recidivism. We must provide solid job opportunities for everyone that will also pay a living wage.”

HB 190 is Willard’s birthing outcome legislation to improve maternity services for midwifes and doulas. “Louisiana has the worst maternity mortality rate in the nation and the second highest infant mortality rate,” explained Willard. 

The legislation requires that health coverage plans provide benefits for maternity services to include coverage for health care services provided by a certified midwife, subject to annual deductibles and other provisions consistent with those established under the health care coverage. It also creates the Louisiana Doula Registry board to review applications to receive a license to practice as a doula. The law also requires the board to review applications for doulas registering to receive health insurance reimbursements. 

The Louisiana Department of Health recommends midwifery and doula care to improve pregnancy outcomes in Louisiana, said Willard. “Louisiana has not been a good state to give birth. We are improving birthing outcomes.” 

Other individuals who are considering the Council District D race include Mark Lawes, operator of the popular Half Shell oyster bar and restaurant on Bayou Road.

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