Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Bulloch's legislative delegation emphasized growth and opportunity at luncheon

The Bulloch County legislative delegation for the Georgia legislature praised local elected leaders, business leaders and community leaders for helping position Bulloch County to take advantage of opportunities created by economic development. With Statesboro and Bulloch County ranked with some of the highest poverty rates in the state, high paying jobs will help lift many from poverty.
L-R: John Roach at podium, seated - Representative Lehman Franklin, Representative Butch Parrish, Speaker Jon Burns, Senator Billy Hickman and Senator Blake Tillery

Building a better Bulloch together was the title of a luncheon hosted on Thursday, May 5, 2024 by Morris Bank.  The event held at The Venue's at Ogeechee Technical College, was the second year the panel included the Bulloch County Georgia legislative delegation in addition to Senator Blake Tillery, Appropriations Chair.

Cliff Wildes with Morris Bank opened the meeting by thanking community and business leaders for taking the time to attend today's luncheon and hear from the legislators.  He then turned the program over to John Roach, Market President for Morris Bank.

Attendees at the luncheon. DeWayne Grice

Panel participants provided opening remarks.  Below are excerpts from each:

  • Representative Jon Burns, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives

"We live in a pretty cool place with lots of good things happening here.  The reason for this is because of leaders and citizens who are engaged in our communities.  I am proud to lead a house led by common sense conservatives and that is the policy you see come out of the house," said Speaker Burns.  "I agree with Senator Hickman on no issue being more important than literacy for our state.  My wife Dayle, a former principal, has joined me in this effort as well."

  • Representative Lehman Franklin

"It is good to see so many community leaders here today.  It is humbling to see what the leaders of this community have done to make our community so desirable.  I have been to alot of countries in the world.  There is no community like this one. None more generous, service oriented and with a better sense of servant leadership.  We are all very fortunate to live here," said Representative Franklin.

  • Representative Butch Parrish

"Healthcare remains a focus for me.  Statesboro is a hub for healthcare regionally.  We have been working on a number of things to help enhance what you are doing here that will help provide better access to quality, affordable healthcare for all Georgians," said Representative Parrish.

  • Senator Billy Hickman 

"I remain focused on improving student reading numbers and literacy rates in Georgia.  As Chair of Higher Ed and Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and Higher Ed I am involved with decisions that impact 50% off the annual state budget.  Shaping the future of our children is important to our communities and states continued success," said Senator Hickman.

  • Senator Blake Tillery

"It is an exciting time in Georgia.  Over the past four years we have invested heavily in education and infrastructure while maintaining a very physically conservative budget that positions us well for any downturn that we may see as a state," said Senator Blake Tillery.

Attendees at the luncheon. DeWayne Grice

After brief introductions and remarks from the panel Roach went on to ask questions for the legislators.  His first question was directed at Senator Hickman. 

Roach asked about two bills Senator Hickman championed focused on improving literacy rates in Georgia.

"There is no next year with literacy.   We can't keep putting it off.  Prisons predict bed space based on the literacy rates of third grade children.  In Georgia pre-k and kindergarten is not mandatory.   When a child misses that, they enter the education system two years behind other children," said Senator Hickman.  "Poverty plays a big role in this as well.  That is why we need more high paying jobs that will help pull more families out of what for many is generational poverty.  This issue must be attacked as a community wide effort.  We all have to get involved to improve literacy rates in our community and state."

Roach asked Senator Tillery about the impact of the federal infrastructure act on Southeast Georgia.

"It meant $240 million additional dollars for infrastructure and road project.  Bulloch received over $10 million additional dollars.  In the past funds from the state required a local match.  These funds did not," said Senator Tillery.

Roach asked Representative Parrish about legislation impacting CON.

"I chaired a special committee on healthcare to try to get different areas and committees working together.  Healthcare is a primary focus on areas we need improvement.  We looked at ways to do this including increasing access to healthcare to all Georgians.  The CON revisions makes it easier to expand needed health care resources in communities," said Representative Parrish.  "One closed hospital has been able to reopen with out having to go through a lengthy and cumbersome CON process since this bill passed.  We exempted mental health beds from CON and focused on focused on increasing OBGYN services to improve our maternal and infant mortality rates.  In addition, we increased the rural healthcare tax credits from a cap of $75 million to $100 million and extended the sunset to 2049."

Speaker Burns added, "Georgia has almost 11 million citizens now.  Increasing healthcare is important.  Healthcare is a measuring stick for quality of life in a community.  Having a new medical and dental school on the way is a big win as well.   Georgia ranks near the bottom of dentist per capita.  The medical and dental schools are in partnership with Augusta Regents University.  This will open up opportunities for 50 dental students in Savannah on the GS Armstrong Campus and 40 medical students."

"The first dentist should graduate in 2026 through this expansion.  If the dentist or medical students choose to practice in an underserved Georgia County they will receive tuition waivers.  We also have expanded residency training around the state.  Where medical students go to school and where they do their training largely determines where they will practice.  What better place than Southeast Georgia," said Representative Parrish.

Roach asked Representative Franklin about workforce development legislation.

"Some of this legislation taps into qualified disabled individuals who are not currently working.  Out of the over 150,000 qualified disabled individuals only 20,000 are working.  This provides methods to get these folks back to work," said Representative Franklin.  "Overall there were 6 or 7 workforce development bills.  Another one made it easier for military spouses licensed in other states to work in Georgia."

Roach asked Speaker Burns about prosecutorial oversight legislation.

"Public safety is a priority for all of us.  Citizens of Georgia understand that the people you elect to office should follow the law.  There are DA's around Georgia that are not following the law.  This legislation will require DA's to follow the law.  Our local DA supported this legislation," said Speaker Burns.

Attendees at the luncheon. DeWayne Grice

In closing Roach asked the panel to summarize their goals for the next session.  State employee retirement system, healthcare, supporting agriculture, education, literacy and mental health and high insurance costs were a few mentioned.  They are also concerned about the high level of discourse.  As older member are retiring they are being replaced with more radical citizens.

Stacy Underwood and his restaurant Uncle Shug's Bar B Que Place on Main catered the luncheon.