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Legislators Preview Upcoming Sessions

U.S. Congressman Rick Allen, R-12, District 19 Senator Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, and District 156 Representative Leesa Hagan, R-Lyons, provided a preview of what they expect to be hot items in the upcoming legislative sessions. The lawmakers offered their predictions at the Greater Vidalia Chamber Legislative Luncheon on Thursday in Lyons. Congressman Allen concentrated his statements around concerns regarding workforce, education, mandates, economic struggles, and elections. Allen also informed the public of his involvement with the ongoing Supreme Court of the United States case regarding the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) vaccine mandate, which began on Friday.

This case involves states mandating any business with more than 100 employees to be fully vaccinated. “Congress did not continued from page

give OSHA that mandate,” Allen clarified.

He added, “We hope that this case goes quickly, that we win it, and that we get rid of that problem.”

Allen also addressed the issue of the workforce. “When we passed the Farm Bill, we tried to get work requirements in that bill,” he commented. “We have 25 million work-capable people surviving on welfare. How could you deny people the opportunity to improve their life?”

Allen informed his audience of the struggle that he faces in convincing congressional colleagues of the need for working individuals. “We know from law enforcement that working individuals cause very few criminal issues,” he said. “I think welfare was created by the government in good faith to make sure people had food on the table and money to pay the power bill, and that sort of thing. But it has gone beyond anything anyone could imagine. We have got to get back to normal in the workforce.”

To improve the workforce for the coming generations, Allen believes educational reform must occur. “The biggest disconnect that I saw when I became a member of the Education and Labor Committees is a disconnection between the work, business, and education communities,” he said.

He emphasized, “We have to work together. The education community needs to know the business community’s needs. The education community needs to educate so that these folks can find work when they graduate from high school and college. I don’t want one child in this district to fall through the cracks.”

Allen stated that children “fall through the cracks” when they are not reading at a third grade level at the end of the third grade year – a trend that has been shown throughout numerous high school dropouts. According to Allen, these dropouts cause further issues because the children then mature and “make a living on the streets” rather than through legitimate employment.

“Business community, do not tell educators ‘that’s your problem,’” he summarized. “Get these kids in your work sites. Create interest. Many of these children are generational welfare children. They have no idea there are other options.”

Allen also addressed the economic issues that the country is facing, attributing many of them to what he describes as a supply chain “national emergency.” According to Allen, supplies may be more efficiently transported throughout the country by the use of railways rather than roadways, because trains have proven to be much faster and more reliable than trucks.

Not only are supply chain struggles hurting the national economy, but also supply and demand issues, Allen believes. “Our country is based on supply and demand,” he emphasized. He gave the example of the mass amounts of small businesses in the oil industry, but the federal government’s insistence on purchasing foreign oil, which causes inflation in the price.

He informed the public of his support of previous legislation that prevented ships from leaving the ports without exports of goods from the United States, which greatly benefitted the agricultural community.

Retirement improvement has bipartisan support, according to Allen, and will also likely come up in legislative sessions regarding economic issues.

One of the most controversial topics that Allen expects to encounter is proposed legislation regarding elections. “It has to be equal representation under the law,” he noted. “We do not want to federalize elections in this nation. Our Founders were very direct in that the power of elections is in the states, and that should not change.”

Allen promises that the power of elections will remain with the states because of the ability to challenge any legislation federalizing elections in the Supreme Court. He explained that because this provision was in the Constitution, federalizing elections will not be ruled as being right unless the Supreme Court increases the amount of justices.

Overall, Allen summed up the biggest problem in the nation through a single idea. “The biggest problem continued from page

that Washington has for this nation is that we will always be a grassroots nation,” he said. “Never forget that. Never forget the power that you hold right here, that you hold in this community. That is where you want power, that is where our Founders intended it to be, and that’s what I am going to insist on.”

Following his address, Allen answered audience questions regarding bank account privacy and taxes, and he reassured the public that he will “fight for what is right.” Senator Blake Tillery

Senator Tillery focused his address on the importance of servant leaders in government during these “wild times.” Tillery told the public that he expected several social and moral issues to come up in session, including: the 10th Amendment, the differentiation in federal and states’ rights, division, police issues, and education.

Tillery used First Baptist Church of Lyons’s Pastor Dannie Williams, where the legislative luncheon was held, as an example of servant leadership. He explained that the event was being held at Williams’s church, which gave him no responsibility in the preparation for the luncheon, yet Williams was emptying trash cans prior to the beginning of the luncheon.

“Most politicians hate to be referred to as ‘servants’ or ‘servant leaders’, but hopefully, at least sometimes, we are,” he emphasized. “Hopefully, we are able to take your calls and take your concerns, and address them in a way that brings some type of value to your family.” According to Tillery, representing this area is a unique challenge, because he must serve a district that is full of servant-leaders. “For many, many generations before us, people emptied trash cans,” he said. “Maybe they weren’t exactly emptying trash cans, but they were volunteering for their Parent Teacher Association, or being a community coach, or other serving activities. That has been the community we live in for decades.”

Tillery repeatedly referred to the expectation that the 10th Amendment, which discusses the unnamed powers of Congress and the federal government, and the determination of state powers versus federal powers. He also noted that he expects that division will continue to be a hot topic in the state, as unity in society tends to diminish daily.

“Remember the generations that came before you — the generations of trash can-emptiers,” he challenged attendees. “Remember that when these people had the opportunity to run to whatever it was and give their opinion, but chose not to. Instead, they walked over and emptied the trash cans.”

He also educated the crowd on a growing issue. “With our population not growing as fast as the rest of the state, there are less legislators that see life through the same prism as you,” Tillery explained. “It just makes our job a little more difficult.”

According to Tillery, police issues are sure to come up in the current legislative session, but he promises to remain true to his belief that government was created for justice, and police officers are instrumental and imperative in the fulfillment of that purpose.

Another issue that Tillery believes will be discussed is the amount of involvement that parents should have in their children’s education. “I firmly believe that parents should be involved in the education of their children, and I will continue to fight for that cause,” he reaffirmed.

When questioned on whether gun rights legislation would be discussed, Tillery stated that he believes constitutional carry will be a hot topic for state governments everywhere. “The main opposition to this concept is the worry of preventing firearms from being available to those whose mental illness prevents them from using the weapon responsibly,” he said. “To combat that, I foresee the legislation proposing that if you can legally pass all standards to buy a gun, you may carry a gun.”

Tillery concluded his address with a challenge to the public. “There is going to be a generation that walks behind us and looks at what we did,” he told the crowd. “We need you to be that group in the community that will plant the trees whose shade the next generation will walk under. Be a seed planter.”

Representative Leesa Hagan

While Hagan is entering her inaugural session in her political career, she has gained an idea of topics that will be discussed during her recent time in the Capitol while working on redistricting during a special session in late 2021.

Hagan began her address thanking the community members who were advocates for the area during redistricting. “I am proud to say that we were able to keep Toombs and Montgomery Counties both whole and together, and it is because of the hard work and support from you all,” she emphasized. She also shared Wheeler County has been added to the district which she represents.

She praised the community’s work with youth in the area. “Our education systems are a priority here, and it is getting noticed,” she noted. “They are topnotch and continuing to get better. We also have a wonderful recreation department and leaders who work to impact our youth.”

Mental health, election reform, and constitutional carry are three topics that Hagan is sure will be discussed throughout the current session. “I’m sure each one of you in this room has been touched by mental health issues in one way or another,” she remarked. “We know we can treat our body physically, but we have not mastered how to treat illness in our mind. I am excited to see some long-overdue and much needed attention on this topic.”

Hagan explained that election reform will focus on making elections fair and accessible to everyone, while remaining lawful.

She informed the public that 12 bills have already been filed regarding constitutional carry, which solidifies the topic’s presence in the current session. Hagan invites the public to share their input with her on this topic as negotiations regarding the bills move forward.

NATIONAL ISSUES — U. S. Congressman Rick Allen, R-12, focused on the American workforce, education, the economy, and “grassroots” power.Photo by Makaylee Randolph

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