January 10-- State Senator Blake Tillery of Vidalia has spent a lot of time in Atlanta since being named Governor-elect Brian Kemp's floor leader and he says the new governor is focusing on the things he promised during the campaign: healthcare, education, rural economic development, jobs and putting Georgia first.
Tillery was introduced Wednesday by Chamber President Pat Dixon at a pre-legislative preview luncheon sponsored by the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce. State Representative Greg Morris was unable to attend due to illness.
Education: Gangs and school safety will be addressed and so will options for parents whose kids are trapped in under performing school systems like Clayton County. He would like to find a middle ground on school calendars and says he's heard from both sides on a legislative study recommending school start closer to Labor Day and end in early June.
Healthcare: The state can't afford the long term costs of funding Medicaid. Senator Tillery notes Medicaid rolls continue to rise even at a time of the state's lowest unemployment levels in decades. He expects the Senate to search for alternatives and says the middle class is getting shafted by health insurance costs.
Rural Economic Development: He noted how most of the state population now lives in North Georgia and re-stated Governor-elect Kemp's commitment to the rural areas of the state which put him in office. Senator Tillery expects several bills to come out of the Senate regarding provision of high speed Broadband internet service to bolster economic development in rural Georgia. He mentioned possible involvement by the state's Electric Membership Cooperatives to extend the service much as they did last century to bring electricity to the hinterlands.
During a question and answer session, Senator Tillery predicted the continued four-laning of U.S. Highway One in Toombs County will slip from 2019 to 2021, not because of funding, but because of the time it takes to acquire right of way and other issues related to a project of that scope.
Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight said prisoners are being released unprepared for jobs and a return to society and reiterated his long-held concern about inadequate mental health services in the state.
Others recommended more state agencies be relocated to rural areas and expressed concerns about young people moving away. Senator Tillery said we need to understand the mindset of millennials when it comes to jobs and careers and how they are motivated more by lifestyle than by money.