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State Senator Billy Hickman gives state update to Rotarians
State Senator Billy Hickman
State Senator Billy Hickman

State Senator Billy Hickman shared an update with Glennville Rotarians on Wednesday, July 27, 2022, on several new laws as well as new companies locating in this area.

He commented that he felt it an honor to represent the citizens in District 4 in the State Senate.

"I always welcome your calls and emails, and I am currently hearing more from you on high gas prices and rising inflation," he said.

The Hyundai plant, which is being built on 3000 acres in Bryan County, will be hiring 8000 employees, and many of these jobs will be high paying.  This is a $5.5 billion investment in an EV (electric vehicle) plant and battery manufacturing facility. This is huge, and other large companies will be attracted to locate here, too.  A lot of these new employees will be moving from California and New York," said Hickman.

Other good news he shared was the passage of several bills this past legislative session.

"Our state had an amazing six billion dollar surplus this year, and we can credit Governor Kemp for much of this since our businesses stayed open during the pandemic when many other states were closing business doors," he said.

"A plus in our state's budget was teacher pay raises as well as $5,000 for all state employees, while returning one billion dollars to Georgia taxpayers in the form of a $500 refund to each couple paying state taxes in 2020 and filing for 2021, and $250 if filing single. Georgia has several exemptions on taxes for those over 65, too," Hickman said, with the states of Florida and Tennessee having no state income tax for individuals on either side of Georgia. The Georgia state income tax will be reduced from 5.75 percent to 4.99 percent, with triggers beginning January 1, 2024, to be fully in place January 1, 2029.

"The shortage of teachers continues to be a challenge, as more teachers are exiting the profession than are those entering it. Higher pay is one of the issues.  However, a new Georgia law allows teachers who retire, after one year, to re-enter the teaching profession without adversely affecting their retirement pay," he explained.

"Tattnall School Superintendent Gina Williams has been very helpful to me, and I appreciate her knowledge when I contact her," he said.

Georgia was one of the first states in the U.S. to suspend the gas tax, and it is now through August 13, 2022,  Even though this is $150 million a month out of the state budget, the funding level for the Georgia Department of Transportation has not been affected.

Other new laws he shared include the following:

•Senate Bill 51, the "Unmask Georgia Students Act," gives parents the right to choose whether or not their children should wear masks at school.

•House Bill (HB) 1084 bans the teaching of divisive and racially charged concepts and bans biological males from competing in girls' sports; in essence, the child's gender at birth is the sex used in competing in school sports.

•HB 1178 creates a Parents' Bill of Rights, which guarantees parents the right to know what is being taught in their child's classroom.

•Senate Bill (SB) 441 gives the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) the authority to investigate election fraud without being officially invited by a city or county.

•HB 1041 increases the rural hospital tax credit from $60 million to $75 million, effective January 1, 2023, which will help small hospitals like those in Evans and Candler counties.

•HB 1150, the Freedom to Farm Act, unburdens farmers and adds protections to their operations. This prevents someone from filing a nuisance claim against a farming operation that was already in existence when they moved into the area adjacent to it.

"One of our biggest concerns in our area is the high poverty rate and the low average weekly wages. Tattnall ranks 102 out of 159 counties in Georgia, with Bulloch number 97, not much better than Tattnall. Emanuel is 118, Candler 156, and Evans 158, while Effingham is 44.  There is a lot of disparity in wages and poverty level as well. Tattnall shows 21.71 percent of its population in poverty.  According to Georgia Trend Magazine in April 2020, the per capita income for Tattnall County was $28,406," said Hickman.  About one in four families in Tattnall County are living in poverty.

To further show the disparity, overall in Georgia, the poverty level is 14.32 percent.

"We have to realize that this is a community problem and address the issues involved.  Higher paying jobs for our citizens are needed, and these new industries coming to our area will, hopefully, spin off to attract other large companies, too," he said.

"Agriculture remains the number one industry in Georgia, so we will need to balance agriculture with development," Hickman said.  Recently, 300 acres in Bryan County needed for warehouses was sold for $17 million.

About Georgia State Senator Billy Hickman

Billy Hickman represents District 4 in the Georgia State Senate.  He won a special runoff election on August 11, 2020, to replace the long-serving State Senator Jack Hill, who died suddenly in May of 2020.

Since that time, he has represented the citizens of Bulloch, Candler, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, and Tattnall counties in the State Senate. He serves on the following committees: Finance Committee, Government Oversight Committee, Higher Education Committee, and Retirement Committee.

As a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) at Dabbs, Hickman, Hill, & Cannon, Senator Hickman uses his knowledge of the financial sector to effectively adapt Georgia tax code to protect and assist Georgians.  During the 2022 legislative session, Hickman introduced five bills that were passed.

Hickman has held the office of president or served as an advisory board member on over two dozen area organizations, which include church, civic, and governmental entities.  He has also received numerous awards for his service and dedication.

He lives in Statesboro with his wife, JoAnn, a retired  teacher; they are both graduates of Georgia Southern and have two sons and five grandsons.